To the Editor,
The freedom of citizens to travel freely throughout the city without being spied upon is at stake. I read the recent article "Police, mayor favor license plate reading cameras" with …
To the Editor,
The freedom of citizens to travel freely throughout the city without being spied upon is at stake. I read the recent article "Police, mayor favor license plate reading cameras" with great concern. Citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they travel. Using this new technology, the Warwick Police Department would be able to track you using "vehicle type, make, color and other attributes," as well as license plates. This is an incredibly powerful tool, and would shift the balance of power in this city.
To my reading, none of this would require a warrant, and there is no civilian oversight of the practice. WPD would be able to track the movements, in real time, of every vehicle in the city, for any reason they choose. Our city is set up for travel by automobile. It's an important part of nearly everyone's lives. Effectively, this would make it impossible for many citizens to travel throughout the city without being spied upon.
People have already reached out to me to express their concerns about introducing this technology and I think it's important that I speak to their fears. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that the Warwick Police
Department has engaged with those it claims to protect for their input.
Yes, some criminals may be caught with this, but the vast majority of data they will have access to will be law-abiding citizens. Legal experts also oppose this technology.
If the WPD needs to conduct surveillance on a vehicle, they should get a warrant approved by a judge, every time. Otherwise, any information should be unavailable to them.
I was even more shocked to read that Col. Braford Connor of the WPD proposes arming local businesses with this same technology. I have no desire to have my movements tracked by the Home Depot because I need to buy a box of drywall screws. I don't believe anyone does, but they've only heard the sales pitch, not an honest discussion that also includes the potential negative outcomes of these cameras.
These cameras are accurately described as "proactive." They are not defensive, they amount to a weapon aimed at private citizens. This is technology developed for cyber warfare, and the WPD wants to use it on us.
This is a dangerous trend.
Our city should stand with the freedom of its citizens on this issue.
Stuart Wilson is a stay-at-home parent running for State Representative from District 19.
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