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Public Safety Policing: What is it, “Big Brother” or “Better Protection” ?

‘Big Brother is protecting you’: Eric Adams pledges stronger policing, more technology in 2023

The subtitle above is from a Politico article published last week. In this article, New York City Mayor Eric Adams promised an “expansion of technology-assisted policing to detect weapons.” Over the past year, he has promoted the use of cameras and lauded facial recognition devices. Adams made this point: “It blows my mind how much we have not embraced technology, and part of that is because many of our electeds [sic] are afraid. Anything technology they think, ‘Oh it’s a boogeyman. It’s Big Brother watching you,’” Adams said. “No, Big Brother is protecting you.”

This quote speaks volumes. Years ago, liberals were almost universally against cameras and other surveillance technologies being used on the public way. Back then, the fear–or the threat–was based on terrorism. Back then, the push back was from liberals who were concerned about government overreach. Back then, Bush was the president and his “War on Terror” was widely criticized by both civil liberty advocates and leftist thinkers. Back then, these were almost perfectly aligned in their opposition to surveillance technologies being used in public safety. This thinking can be illustrated in one quote cited in my new book: You Say You Want a Revolution: A Compelling & Cautionary Tale of What Lies Ahead:

“If this technology ends up being deployed widely, it seems to be another step toward a society where you need to accept surveillance in every part of your life.”

This quote was from a USA Today article in 2008. Back then, UK sociologist Clive Norris concluded that cameras are becoming so “omnipresent that all Britons should assume their behavior outside the home is monitored.” Well these quotes are now reality.

So, the operative question: Is this Big Brother or Better Protection?

Of course, the use of surveillance in public environments is now widespread. As an early advocate for surveillance technologies, I introduced what I called “Public Safety Policing” in a groundbreaking book entitled Terrorism & Public Safety Policing, published in 2009. Back then, the idea of incorporating surveillance technologies into the police “model” was novel, even unique. Since then, it has blossomed into a vast array of technologies regularly used in public environments. Consider this a representative sampling of such technologies:

  • Networked camera systems
  • Remote Traffic enforcement
  • Predictive crime mapping
  • Access control systems
  • Identification systems
  • Facial recognition systems
  • Perimeter-intrusion detection systems
  • Infrared/night vision systems
  • Explosive detecting scanners
  • Global positioning systems
  • License-plate readers
  • Sensor systems
  • Drones
  • Fusion centers

These were framed and discussed in my new book. In this book, I answered the operative question. Both “Big Brother” and “Better Protection” are natural consequences of surveillance technologies. And both are indeed happening! Where this ultimately ends is on us–Do we want more robust public safety? Or do we want to give our relinquish our rights because we are too fearful? Fear goes to many levels, with many implications. These are addressed in my book. If you desire to truly understand this dangerous dynamic, read on…

Check out a summary of Public Safety Policing here:

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