Once again, Ladies and Gents, MC is proud to have a guest poster in North State DA:
Traffic Stop 2015
So I was messing around with an app on my phone today, and discovered a fascinating little function called â€œGoogle Goggles.â€ Goggles takes pictures of common items and searches the web for information about the item. It seems innocuous enough- take a picture of a bottle of beer on the shelf at Safeway, and your device gives you a link to the brewery, a review of the beer, and uses the GPS chip in the phone to show you a nearby liquor store that has it on sale. Neat! But what is it actually doing? And does that have any application in the public safety context?
You BET it does. In a HUGE way. And the ramifications are immense. More importantly, there is a revolution coming in the ability to accumulate and process data, and the law is way, WAY behind in coping with it. Imagine the following scenario:
1 Jun 2015, 1530 hours. Motorcop on traffic detail in Town. MC sees a beat-up hoopdie â€™92 Dodge Ram 1500 coming towards him, and points his LIDAR unit at the Dodge. Limit is 35, Ram is doing 38. The law gives a few miles over for calibration error, and MC has determined that anything below 42 is totally safe on this bright June afternoon when school is out. So the Ram is in the clear.
But this is 2015, and MC has a new LIDAR unit that is integrated with his new digital radio and its 4G network. This unit takes a picture of the Ram as its coming closer, and automatically picks up the plate, scans the numbers, and checks them with DMV. Oops. Ram was last registered 6 Oct 2012.
An electronic voice comes through the earpiece in MCâ€™s helmet and delivers the bad news about the driver (this being 2015, DMV has FINALLY got around to tracking the temporary registration tags that DMV agents used to pass out like candy and never tracked back in 2010, so there is NO WAY the Ram is current.) MC has PC, and away we go.
Before MC even radios in to dispatch, the smartphone-like portable network unit device on his belt that is wirelessly connected to the LIDAR has already received all of the Ramâ€™s registration information, and its also got the data on the Ramâ€™s owner. Her name is Daria Dirtball, 22. Dirtball is currently on formal drug probation for a felony meth possession charge, and her license is suspended for a DUI when she was 19 (she never took the class and paid the fines.)
Of course, the driver might not be Dirtball, but MC has probable cause from the registration, so its just trivia- for now.
MC hits the lights and the Ram pulls over. So far, its what the media likes to call a â€œroutine traffic stop.â€ MC approaches the window and leans over to see the driver. â€œDo you know why I stopped you, maâ€™am?â€
MC is wearing shades. Hey, its June, its California. But what the driver doesnâ€™t notice is the tiny digital video camera in the glasses:
Before the driver even finished telling MC â€œNo, officer, Iâ€™m suspended for DUI,â€ the camera took a picture of her face and sent it to the device. The picture is broken down into a numerical â€œsignatureâ€ and sent to DMV. The signature comes back to Dirtball. Bingo. Searchable for dope and driving on a suspended, a misdemeanor.
â€œI stopped you because your vehicle hasnâ€™t been registered for a while.â€
â€œYeah, I am a few months late.â€
â€œActually, DMV says you are several YEARS late. Please step out of the car.â€ Arrest (on the suspended license), search, find a handful of meth baggies and a scale in a backpack that has a credit card bill belonging to Dirtball, and off to jail pending sentencing in the formal drug probation and a new felony dope sales charge.
OK, pretty â€œroutineâ€ stop. The tech didnâ€™t add much. But letâ€™s throw in a new variable: Dirtball has a passenger. While MC is talking to Dirtball, his magic shades take a picture of her passenger. DMV check shows nothing. But the photo â€œsignatureâ€ is run through a federal database, and it comes back to Ignacio Illicito. Seems Illicito was stopped by ICE agents and sent home to Mexico when he tried to skip the border 3 years ago, and a mugshot was taken. Now Illicito is wanted on a felony warrant out of Imperial County for his role in the kidnapping of a Mexican informer last month.
MCâ€™s day just got a lot busier. Dispatch has already requested backup, and two units are on the way to help take Illicito into custody. And it all happened in under 90 seconds from the time MC got off his bike.
If this traffic stop happened in 2010, Illicito would have told MC that his name was Pedro Guerrero. MC would point out that â€œPedroâ€ did not look like a pro ball player, and â€œPedroâ€ would tell him that itâ€™s a common name where heâ€™s from. Dirtball would claim the backpack, and, with no further reason to detain Illicito, MC would let him on his merry way, warrant and all.
This technology has applications in the EMS world, too. Imagine responding to a call of a passed out bum on a sidewalk. In 2015, you take a quick snapshot of Ben Bumâ€™s face, and you get an ID, along with a warning that his disgusting bum-body has hep C, tuberculosis, and HIV swimming around in it. And heâ€™s diabetic, and allergic to penicillin. This new tech just saved at least one life, in that you can now properly treat Bum without killing him, but it might also save the life of the responders and ER staff that can prepare for this self-propelled bio weapons lab.
The remarkable thing about this technology is not that itâ€™s â€œjust around the cornerâ€: its already here. This isnâ€™t the millionth Popular Mechanics article claiming that we will all be flying hovercars by next year. The only enabling leap that needs to be taken before this jumps from the theoretical to the operational is some software and a few servers at DMV and the Department of Homeland Security. And maybe a link to booking photo software at county jails and CDCR.
DMV already operates CALPHOTO, a database with a picture of every driver in California. The pictures are not super high resolution, but they are definitely good enough to narrow down the likely candidates to a few dozen people. Throw in environment data, like location or the vehicle being driven, and the software should be able to peg the face almost every time. And it will only get better as the years go by.
But now we have the legal problem. Its well settled that a driver has virtually no expectation of privacy in regards to identity. Anonymity in the physical world is basically a myth. Since you canâ€™t get anywhere in most of the country without driving, and since you canâ€™t drive without a license, you will be vulnerable to identification by law enforcement at least several times a day (assuming probable cause to stop, which any observant officer can develop if he follows a driver long enough.) This has been the state of affairs for about half a century. What this technology does is extend this identification to passengers, or even people walking on the street. Probable cause to stop or detain is no longer a predicate for identification.
In the Kyllo decision, the US Supreme Court relied heavily on the state of technology to say that thermal imaging of a residence violates the reasonable expectation of privacy. If thatâ€™s the basis, the court was right (and is still right.) Thermal imagers are not restricted to the military or law enforcement. You can actually rent one- just Google â€œthermal imaging camera rental.â€ But they are still relatively expensive and require a certain amount of expertise to operate. Since you do not expect that any schmoe might be peeking through your walls with a thermal camera, you reasonably expect that no one is watching you walk around naked in your bedroom.
â€œVisual search,â€ on the other hand, is already available. All you need is an iPhone or an Android-based smartphone. For $150 (plus a 2 year commitment) you can get a device that is currently capable of scanning products and searching a database for the productâ€™s identity. Faces are not dramatically different or more difficult. Google and Apple have not implemented this feature, but its only a matter of time before a phone can scan the face of somebody at a club and link you immediately to their Facebook page. They can do it TODAY. They probably have not because of concerns about legality and privacy.
When this technology hits the courts, there will be chaos. Defense attorneys will squeal that their clientsâ€™ identities should be protected from the tyranny of easy identification, and cops will try to scan everybody they meet. The courts will try to strike a balance, and the politicians will no doubt author nonsensical legislation that restricts or expands the way it can be used in response to perceived or actual public outrage. Either way, its going to be a very interesting next couple of years.