It was billed as the “launch” of “the first-ever law enforcement app for Loudoun County.”
It shouldn’t have ever been launched.
By way of background, this app is “available on the iTunes App Store (IOS) and Google Play (Android)” and “will allow “users” who download this app, according to the Sheriff’s release, “to be able to submit crime tips anonymously, including the ability to send photos and videos from their smartphone.”
You may wonder what the Sheriff means by a “tip.”
Well, the Sheriff confirmed it’s not a “crime in progress.”
Without any standards whatsoever, citizens are being invited to say what they think is “suspicious,” based doubtlessly on incomplete information, little or no investigative experience, personal bias, rumors, overheard conversations, maybe even an unconsented taped conversation, and, finally, by forwarding this “packet” of “tip” text, with accompanying stills, audio and video documents – all done anonymously.
This “first ever” initiative is like the “Sound of Music” come to Loudoun – inviting us to mimic the misbehavior of that Nazi twit who turns in his girlfriend’s Von Trapp family.
We have tried before having something like a Stasi volunteer network.
After 9-11, the federal government invited us one and all to rat out “suspicious” neighbors or “strangers.”
But 95% of those “tips” turned out to be nothing at all.
Worse, it is daunting to imagine our Sheriff’s Department having the wherewithal to consider whether these anonymous tipsters have an axe to grind, a motive to hurt or slander another, or whether they are just plain reckless.
Other communities have recoiled at such law enforcement techniques. In Boston, the community started wearing t-shirts that read, “Stop Snitchin’.’”
Another unsavory aspect of this rat app is its Kafkaesque aspect – your accuser is unknown and you don’t get to confront him to show how unreliable or biased he may be.
Your constitutional right to associate freely is chilled when you hesitate to talk because you can’t trust the person you’re talking to is a snitch or not.
This app, in short, compromises you’re right of privacy, to be left alone.
The community trust of law enforcement is already soft.
The best law enforcement experts are rebuilding that trust by dialing back their use of the intrusive weapons that they’ve been testing and using against citizens.
The fear of police misconduct has spurred the ACLU to offer its own app that seeks to memorialize reliable evidence, by discreetly recording the video or audio of a stop by an officer.
When the app is activated, it disappears from the screen – so the officer can’t detect the surveillance of his conduct.
Talk about turning the tables.
The app also uploads the recording to the ACLU so that the video can be monitored for civil liberties violations involving, by way of example, excessive force, intimidation, and racial profiling.
One ACLU video says that, “Once it has been uploaded, it’s saved on an external server, so police cannot permanently delete the file.”
If you’ve already downloaded the Sheriff’s app, get smart, and delete it.
You don’t know where it’s been.