Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 30, 2014

“All that happens must be known”- What’s good for cops should be good for elected officials.

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on December 30, 2014

A Washington Post-ABC News poll learned that “86 percent of Americans support requiring patrol officers in their areas to wear small video cameras while on duty.”

In the words found within David Egger’s book, The Circle, “All that happens must be known.”

In other routine news, a congressman resigns after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion charges.  A former governor is found guilty of 11 counts of public corruption.  Four of the last seven governors of another state spent time in prison.  It happens to mayors too.  And judges. And to numerous federal officials.

Every profession has bad apples. So, if it’s good for cops to wear cameras while on duty, why not elected and appointed officials?

“All that happens must be known.”

David Egger’s utopian/dystopian novel (it sort of depends where you sit) is centered on a mega corporation, called the Circle. The Circle is used for 90% of all internet searches, but it’s also a technology company.

As we join this excerpt, one of the Circle’s founders – Stenton – is giving an Idea talk in the Great Room of Enlightenment.

“As you know…, transparency is something we advocate here at the Circle.  We look to a guy like Stewart as an inspiration…. [Stewart wears a video device on his chest; he has been recording and sharing every moment of his life for the past five years.]

“…There’s another area of public life where we want and expect transparency, and that’s democracy.  We’re lucky to have been born and raised in a democracy, but one that is always undergoing improvement.  When I was a kid, to combat back-room political deals, for example, citizens insisted upon Sunshine Laws….  And yet still, so long after the founding of this democracy, every day our elected leaders still find themselves embroiled in some scandal or another, usually involving them doing something they shouldn’t be doing.  Something secretive, illegal, against the will and best interests of the republic.  No wonder public trust for Congress is at 11 percent….  Your occupation could be dropping human feces on the heads of senior citizens … and your job approval would be higher than 11 percent.

“So what can be done? What can be done to restore the people’s trust in their elected leaders?

“I’m happy to say that there’s a woman who is taking all this very seriously, and she’s doing something to address the issue.”

Stenton then introduces Congresswoman Olivia Santos.  Santos is at the Idea talk to announce “a very important development in the history of government.”  She acknowledges that all citizens have the right to know what their elected leaders are doing, who they are meeting with, talking with, and what they’re talking about.

“We’ve all wanted and expected transparency from our elected leaders,” Congresswoman Santos says, “but the technology wasn’t there to make it fully possible.  But now it is.  As Stewart has demonstrated, it’s very easy to provide the world at large full access to your day, to see what you see, hear what you hear, and what you say….”

At this point it’s obvious what Santos is going to announce.

“Starting today. I will be wearing the same device Stewart wears.  My every meeting, movement, my every word, will be available to all my constituents and to the world.

And the Idea talk audience rose to their feet in the Great Room of Enlightenment cheering, whooping and whistling their approval.

When Santos first announced what became known as “the new clarity,” there was a bit of media coverage, but not much.

“But then, as people logged on and began watching, and began realizing that she was deadly serious — that she was allowing viewers to see and hear precisely what went into her day, unfiltered and uncensored — the viewership grew exponentially…. [Soon] there were millions watching her.”

The new clarity spread.

“By the third week, twenty-one other elected leaders in the U.S. had asked the Circle for their help in going clear…. By the end of the first month, there were thousands of requests [for the Circle’s help] from all over the world…. By the end of the fifth week, there were 16,188 elected officials… who had gone completely clear, and the waiting list was growing.”

Like police departments that tried to resist in-car cameras, and who may initially balk at requiring officers to wear cameras, resistance for the politicians in Egger’s world was futile.

“The pressure on [politicians] who hadn’t gone transparent went from polite to oppressive.  The question, from pundits and constituents, was obvious and loud: If you aren’t transparent, what are you hiding?  Though some [people]… objected on grounds of privacy, asserting that government, at virtually every level, had always needed to do some things in private for the sake of security and efficiency, the momentum crushed all such arguments and the progression continued.  If you weren’t operating in the light of day, what were you doing in the shadows?”

Back to real life for a moment, “in the first year after .. cameras [were introduced in the Rialto, CA police department] … the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%.

The result in Egger’s world?

“Within weeks, the non-transparent [elected] officeholders were treated like pariahs.  The clear ones wouldn’t meet with them if they wouldn’t go on camera, and thus these leaders were left out. Their constituents wondered what they were hiding, and their electoral doom was all but assured.  In any coming election cycle, few would dare to run without declaring their transparency….  There would never again be a politician without immediate and thorough accountability, because their words and actions would be known and recorded and beyond debate.  There would be no more back rooms, no more murky deal-making.  There would be only clarity, only light.”

Several people have mentioned to me that in 2015 we will be as far away from the year 2030 as we are from the year 2000.  That does not seem all that long ago.  But so much unpredictability has reshaped the world and this nation in those mere 15 years.

Who dares predict what will emerge in the next 15 years? Let alone what 2015 will bring.

Remember to breathe.
[thanks dwl]

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Comment by John Comiskey

December 30, 2014 @ 6:38 am

The Nation has been stirred by the deaths of Mr. Eric Garner and Mr. Michael Howard during confrontations with the police and most recently by the assassinations of NYPD Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

The degree to which transparency via body worn cameras by the police might have prevented/mitigated the tragic circumstances is debatable. Notably, much of the Garner confrontation was caught on video by a passerby on his cellphone.

Circle-like transparency, to a degree, is inevitable. Most law enforcement officers that I know, welcome the body cameras. The cameras will likely capture the world that police see every day -good people having bad days and bad people doing very bad things.

IMHO, the body worn cameras will vindicate the police more so than they will expose wrongdoing.

The police body worn cameras, we are told, will help build trust between the police and the communities that they serve. The cameras will sometimes restraint the police from using discretion that allows them to not record minor offenses that might be adjudicated otherwise with a simple warning and admonishment. Near-all will be recorded both on camera and in police records. More people will have official police records. The Circle will grow.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 30, 2014 @ 10:59 am

Thanks Chris and John! Not uncomplicated issue and wondering if even more discussion necessary and analysis.

I grew up and lived many years [over 55] in Arlington County VA which has always had an excellent police force. As a teenage I knew well several men that were on the force. Including one injured badly in a high speed pursuit that married one of his nurses. I served on 14 Arlington/Falls Church Grand Juries.

Yet when I saw 20 Arlington motorcycle policemen in boots and web gear in a local diner I was appalled. Perhaps they were part of formal motorcades but perhaps not.

When my sons were learning to drive and then driving independently I spent over an hour with each discussing protocol if stopped by an officer. It was an effort to keep them safe and apparently worked. Politeness and respect for the officer and what they were doing was essential.

But for whatever reasons IMO many Americans for whatever reason fear law enforcement and uniformed officers. I continue to believe many concerns are valid since among other things many law enforcement officials are not drug tested or profiled psychologically even before employment.

I do know that two security officials in the FEMA security force who had their guns take away for a number of reasons immediately committed suicide. They were their guns and uniform.

With over 800,000 uniformed law enforcement officers in the USA they are an asset to both personnel security and homeland security but since Bobbie Peale created the first relatively modern policing force in LONDON early in the 19th Century policies and issues not uncomplicated for that force. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow!

Comment by Donald Quixote

December 30, 2014 @ 11:04 am

That is a great point about the expansion of arrests to address video documented violations that could be informally resolved by the officer (old school conflict resolution or community policing) and save someone from a criminal history. For liability and cell phone camera purposes, it is usually safer to transport and let the courts sort it out.

I concur that cameras shall support the police more than hurt them with interactions with the public. The cameras may have an unintended consequence for the public by encouraging an officer to remain in the vehicle rather than make a contact that may spin the wrong way. This could explain a portion of the very positive results of complaint and uses of force reduction in Rialto and other jurisdictions.

On another controversial note and rather interesting with the very recently reported enforcement statistics by the NYPD*: Beyond political messaging, some embattled agencies have found that it is safer to respond to a crime that already occurred as to one in progress for the dynamics of the interaction and possible negative consequences. There may be more broken windows observed in New York and other locations in the future.

* http://nypost.com/2014/12/29/arrests-plummet-following-execution-of-two-cops/

Comment by Dan OConnor

December 30, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

Those who shine the light on others most likely stand in the dark…

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Judge not lest ye be judged.

Why do you point out the speck in my eye with a plank sticking from yours?

While not exact in their attribution, the New Testament does provide a litany of statements with regard to guidance about being judgmental and scornful of others. They are also tenants of effective servant leadership.

The original blog and its subject matter is a leadership problem first and foremost and secondly demonstrative of a general decline in ethics.

The hypocrisy and situational ethics exercised by many “leaders” is confounding. Should we be surprised? Transparency is thrown around as a buzz word (along with authenticity) and part of the transformational leadership mantra.

Transparency is uncomfortable. Transparency is work. Transparency and “fairness” can be very difficult to achieve. For some, transparency hurts because it removes something from those that benefited while recognizing that others were dismissed and/or disadvantaged.

It also creates a situation where those scorned will go to great lengths to disprove its merits and excoriate the individual(s) who are not consistent. Is transparency a laudable goal for leaders? What about for defense and security? Do we as Americans really want transparency?

From a homeland security point of view, I think this leadership/transparency question is the conundrum that has emerged post 9/11 and shaped what could be described as the reactionary homeland security state. Some want complete secrecy, security, autonomy, and authority. Others want accountability, fairness, equity, and justice. With regard to transparency can both peacefully coexist without friction, exceptions, and anomalies that arise?

Are some of the concerns provided in the lead post those of an emergent militarized police state? The Patriot act, local ordinances, TSA actions, DHS actions, DOD actions, Congressional actions, Presidential actions, and generally over regulated citizens are over scrutinized because they are generally powerless to challenge the status quo. Is their transparency in this state? Tough question.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights have a reason for their existence. Yet, the afforded rights of these documents are under constant attack and flexible interpretation, depending on the situation.

IF one wants to contrast this with the decay of civil liberty, infrastructure, urban plight, black on black crime, perpetuated welfare, immigration, nearly invisible opportunity and a growing inability to make ends meet than do so. If there is a 99%, a 1%, IRS abuse, no health care, increase taxes, diminishing representative government, NSA spying etc. is it a symptom or a sickness? There are critical facts, observations, and objectivity missing from both arguments.

Is being fair and transparent admitting there are merits to both arguments and none? Do these stark contrasts have more to do with power and wealth than mere ineptness or corruption? If you want to have transparency then you’d better have accountability.

Do we want justice or mercy?

Perhaps Lord Acton said it best; “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

Clearly that cannot be true…or is it? Is this a focus of effort issue? If one believes in fund raisers or bundlers being made Ambassadors, political appointees violating hiring laws and rewarding unqualified or under qualified friends, speculators and bankers losing trillions of dollars, and unelected and/or celebrity advisors having access with no other purpose other than exercising veiled extortion than it, power corrupts is true. But should we be surprised?

That process is not very transparent.

Patronage is an old custom/rite of passage/privilege of the “winner”. What are the unintended consequences? Cynicism, corruption, and a decay of ethics. That climate has deleterious effect on performance, outlook, and the Nation. The hypocrisy is stunning. But is it surprising?

The Senate report on torture found that the “enhanced techniques” used by the CIA were ineffective as a mechanism for gathering intelligence. In fact, the report stated there was no actionable intelligence gained while employing the once illegal tactics. Sans a pen change in the Justice Department, they would still probably be.

Rula Jebreal, a reporter for MSNBC thinks torture defenders are driving America to moral suicide. That is a strong position…but she is a liberal working for a liberal new outlet so, you know…Instead of measuring that finding, weighing the report and analysis, the opposition (because there is now mandatory opposition) presented an antithetical argument that it saved American lives.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney slammed the recently released Senate report on CIA interrogation techniques Wednesday, calling it “full of crap,” and a “terrible piece of work” that was “deeply flawed.”
Cheney, speaking on Fox News’ said some of the controversial techniques used on militants had been previously tested and the interrogations produced results. Well, that’s Fox news for you…a conservative outlet and apologists for the diminishing influence of a dying Republican party.

So now the Senate and the Congress are too inept and too polarized to tell even a semblance of truth to the American people.

If no one can be trusted than who can be trusted?

I remember a General Officer once telling me that the only real privilege of Generalship was that of leading others. The conversation started over a parking space allocated for the one General on a base of some 75,000 folks. Someone had filed a complaint with regard to him having his own parking space. Can you imagine this being a concern for someone? Well apparently it was. Again as a point of contrast; Tom Ricks wrote an interesting piece on Generalship in the current DoD.


It is a damning article about the performance of Generals, they generally being inept and/or incompetent and they being rather unspectacular and mediocre. Can anyone imagine a private who loses his/her rifle being punished more than a general who loses their part of a war? Well there is some truth in that statement but it lacks historical context. And where are the exceptional Generals?

From my point of view, no one should be surprised that people make mistakes, err, fall, and fail. Then again, no one should be surprised when people triumph, create, lead, and advance society and humanity.

Maybe we should spend more time reading about Stockdale and his idea of leadership and ethics. Perhaps Stockdale’s, Denton’s, Alvarez’ et al thoughts should have been read by Mr. Yoo prior to his rendering an opinion. It a challenging proposition.

The privilege to serve has been usurped by the privilege to self indulge and aggrandize. A strong statement on my part but my opinion nonetheless. Do we really want transparency?

“Within weeks, the non-transparent [elected] officeholders were treated like pariahs”

This is not too far from reality now…but they still make the laws and still have PAC’s and still keep K street and lobbyists lucratively employed. They still make decisions and hire their cronies and those who abide by the intent and letter of the law battle those who have benefited.

Those who shine the light tend to do so from the dark…their darkness; their hypocrisy. What they demand they do not provide…

We ask a tremendous amount from Law Enforcement…cops. We ask more from our enlisted military members and their young officers too. They do great things and make mistakes…just like the rest of us. Perhaps those who shine the light should reflect some of that light upon themselves and wonder aloud while they cast stones about. Apologize for length.

Happy New Year.

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