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Stop and Search and Replay

Stop and search has always been a friction point between police and the communities they serve. Indeed several commentators cited it as a potential contributory factor to last year’s riots.

The New York equivalent “Stop-and-Frisk” has proved equally contentious with almost 700,000 people questioned on the city’s streets last year.

The vast majority were non-white and almost 9/10 had not committed a crime – see this article by Ryan Devereaux (@RDevro) in last week’s Guardian for further information.

However, of even more interest to me in the article was the news that the New York Civil Liberties Union had developed a mobile phone app to monitor the use of ”Stop-and-Frisk”.

I have written many times on this blog about how new technologies present new opportunities for law enforcement agencies to catch and prosecute criminals – from Smartphones that can report themselves stolen to the increasingly sophisticated police use of social media for gathering intelligence, investigating crimes and establishing evidence.

Of course, the same technologies present new opportunities for criminals too and the balance of power has shifted many times since the invention of fingerprints right up to DNA profiling and now, it would seem, the potential interception of all online communications.

But everything I have written about so far has involved the adoption of new technologies by either the police or the criminals they are trying to catch.

So it’s interesting to explore an innovation by a more neutral party.

How it works

The most important thing to understand about this app is that it is designed to be used by witnesses – not subjects – of Stop-and-Frisk.

This is particularly important. If the subject of a stop went to get his phone out of an inside pocket, it would be very easy for a police officer to assume he was reaching for a gun, with potentially tragic consequences.

The app has three main functions: record, listen and report which are explained in the short YouTube clip below:

Currently, the app is only available on Android, although it should be available for iPhone in July.

When I got a copy to test it out, I found that it had been downloaded by over 5,000 people in its first week.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the app enters into common use.

There is clearly value in ensuring that police officers in any country operate in a non-discriminatory way.

It’s also very easy to imagine how individuals who have been stopped with good reason might choose to act up to the camera, potentially igniting further problems.

I’m very interested in your views – from what ever perspective.

Please leave your comments below – there’s no need to login.

Social Media Quick Tip: Facebook Admin Roles Are Here

Finally, some GOOD news about Facebook. In a previous quick tip we told you of their plans to roll out admin levels. The long-awaited feature has finally arrived. For law enforcement agencies that have more than one page administrator, this is a significant development. It’s especially important with the new ability to receive messages on pages.

There are five levels of admins. The top level is Manager and only a Manager can add admins or assign levels to admins. But everybody is a Manager to start, by default. From the Facebook help center, click here to see a chart that describes each admin level and what access each has.

So for example, if you have the messaging feature enabled on your agency’s fan page, so that fans can send messages, now you can assign an admin at the moderator level. That person can answer those comments but not create posts as the Page.

To add, delete or change the role of admins, select Edit Page and then Admin Roles. Want to feature your admins on the page? Also in the Edit Page area, select Featured, and choose the people you’d like to be shown on the left of the page.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

Inside Twitter: Tweeting from prison

copyright www.patdollard.com

My recent series on how to make the most of Twitter for workers in the criminal justice system created a decent amount of interest among police, probation and legal staff but very little from those working in prison.

This is entirely unsurprising since people inside generally don’t have access to mobile phones or the internet.

So, if prison officers can’t access Twitter, how can a prisoner tweet – and do so regularly?

There was a fascinating recent article in @insidetimeuk by Matthew Whitehead and Andy Stanford-Clark on how they helped their friend Mark Alexander continue tweeting from behind prison bars.

Mark was convicted of the murder of his father in 2010 and is currently appealing against that conviction.

Before his conviction, Mark was an avid Tweeter and Matthew and Andy worked out a way for him to continue to use Twitter from inside in order to get support from his family and friends and to publicise his appeal.
How it’s done

Essentially, Matthew and Andy wrote software which subscribes to all the tweets sent to Mark’s account (@tap_ma) and compiles them into an email message.

These tweets are then sent to Mark using the emailaprisoner service which allows anyone to write to prisoners, when the email reaches the prison, it is printed out and passed on to the prisoner.

These emails are limited to 2,500 characters, but because Tweets are famously only 140 characters long, this equates to 15-20 messages at a time.

Twitter direct messages can also be passed on in the same way.

Unfortunately, the technology (for fairly obvious prison security reasons) only works one way.

So for Mark to reply to his tweets, he has to write a traditional letter which includes a series of Tweets which Matthew and Andy then type and post online.

In the article, Mark describes how even this snailmail version of Twitter makes him feel in much closer contact with his friends and more supported as he copes with prison life.

Necessity is truly the mother of invention.

You can follow emailaprisoner on Twitter: @prisontechnolog

You might also be interested in the only legal Blog by a serving prisoner: Ben’s Prison Blog

Many thanks to @prisonerfamily for the headsup on the Inside Time article.

This article was previously published on Russell Webster’s blog.

Bing Maps and Law Enforcement: BFFs

The Microsoft Corporation is taking on it’s arch rival, Google, in a virtual showdown at the HTTP Corral. Law enforcement is going to win big no matter who wins this social media fistfight. Microsoft has been ensconcing itself firmly in both Facebook and Twitter search and Google for a change, must play catch-up. Microsoft has provided law enforcement with tools that can help gather information faster and in real-time. If you didn’t believe in social media as a viable law enforcement investigative tool, Microsoft may have just change your mind.

Awhile back I wrote an article on ConnectedCops.net entitled, The Social Media Canvass. In it, I explained the importance of checking social media sites for information in addition to conducting the traditional investigative canvasses once the detectives arrive at the scene. The social media canvass has changed the way we conduct investigations, how law enforcement views electronic intelligence and how it uses smartphones / tablets at the scene of a major incident. Law enforcement has always been slow to adopt anything new, however, at the speed that technology is developing in the social media space, we may find ourselves in a hole that may be to deep to dig out of.

The Microsoft Bing Map Twitter App can provide a treasure trove of intelligence for law enforcement, quickly and more efficiently, by tapping into it’s Twitter Map App. The app can be found from the Bing.com homepage by clicking on the Maps link, choosing Map Apps and scrolling down to the Twitter App (Currently there are 59 Apps in alphabetical order). Once the app has loaded, two tabs, Timeline and Search, appear on the left side of the screen. When you click on the Search tab, you are able to enter a location, address or landmark, keyword or phrase or a Twitter username. Since you will probably not be looking for anyone in particular, enter text in the location and keyword boxes. For example, enter your hometown in the location box and shooting, murder, rape, robbery, etc. in the keywords / phrases box. Within a few seconds, Bing will locate all Tweets that contain that information and provide the investigator with a map of where the person Tweeted from or is currently tweeting from, as well as a Timeline that is updated with every new Tweet that contains your parameters. More importantly, it provides active links directly to the person’s Twitter account-which means you know who they follow and who follows them.

Google will need to create something even better if it wants to stay relevant in the social media search space. This virtual fight will only benefit law enforcement. As the two Internet giants battle it out, they will create better tools for us to use. Microsoft’s Bing is already Facebook’s default search engine, so investigators should go there first to conduct their initial searches during the social media canvass. Twitter, the “other social media site” is currently building a sizable user base of over 465 million. Law enforcement can use Bing to tap into this growing database and identify tweets timely, which may lead to more actionable intelligence and more closed cases.

Remember, it is not only bad guys that we are looking for when we use the social media canvass. We can identify eye and ear witnesses and obtain intelligence information that may prove or disprove alibis.

The art of face recognition technology

In the near future, will police officers be able to use their mobile phone to photograph you at the roadside and then instantly run your photo through a database of known criminals?

These thoughts were prompted by a fascinating article by @paulxharris in this weekend’s Observer on the possibility of applying face recognition software to famous paintings.

The University of California at Riverside has secured funding to test the application of facial recognition software to famous portraits where the subject is unknown such as “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, one of 14 portraits of unknown subjects which comprise a current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery entitled “Imagined Lives”.

The University is going to start by using the software on death masks of known individuals and create a database of sufficiently wealthy individuals who could be the real life model for, say, the Laughing Cavalier.

Intriguingly, there are also plans to use another forensic technique, software which predicts how an individual might look several years after their latest available image, as was recently done in the tragic case of Madeleine McCann.

So, it will be possible to run this aging software on the Girl with a Pearl Earring and then see if another portrait was painted as an older woman. If such a portrait was titled, we would then know her identity.

All this talk of facial recognition software put me in mind of Facewatch, the business crime reporting website and application which I posted about recently.

Facewatch hosts still images from CCTV footage and encourages members of the public to go online (or use the mobile app) to see if they recognise the perpetrators of local crimes.

It is easy to imagine a future in which all these images are automatically run through a database of known offenders to try to identify them at the earliest opportunity.

It strikes me that if the plans for a National Identity Card developed by the last Labour government had gone through, this might well have been one of its prime uses.

It would, of course, be possible to start building a database using photos from passport and driving licence applications although the data protection and Civil Liberties considerations would have to be fully worked through.

Who knows how important facial recognition software will be for the future of law enforcement?

For myself, I would love to know who were the real life models for Jesus and the 12 disciples in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper.

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