Sunday, January 22, 2017

The open kimono and alignment

I just read through an interesting article on the use of body cams by police in the New York Times Magazine that Graham had been saving for me on the floor of his bedroom. Basically, the article revolved around the experience in Seattle, where some hacker kid used freedom of information laws to compel the police department (SPD) to release all of its body cam videos.

Of course, the first problem is the sheer quantity of data, which is huge. Then there's the issue of confidentiality for the citizens in the videos. And there are lots of other issues too, nothing is simple in this life.

The hacker kid eventually ended up working with the SPD to develop automated methodologies to redact video to protect confidentiality and manage the huge volume of requests, and then, having an aggrandized conception of himself as a "change agent" and low social IQ for working within large organizations (really not an easy thing to do, certainly not my forte), he ended up pissing off the team that ran the 911 unit and got himself banned from SPD HQ.

So he went back to being a complete pain in the ass and writing automated scripts to put in innumerable freedom of information requests for other stuff, crippling the SPD again.

Fundamentally, our whole paranoia about police overreach is a problem of alignment. People don't trust their motives, so want to micromanage them, but really don't have the disposition or skillset to do so, but the problem starts with poor lines of communication between PDs and the populations they serve. Again, the fragmentation of the media universe is a big part of the problem. Time was, all there was to watch was local news and then Cronkite, Brokaw, etc. So people watched that. And when the chief of police came on and discussed a big case, they were able to communicate out effectively.

But maybe we also didn't hear about many Eric Garners, Alton Sterlings, Freddy Grays,....

OK.  By now I have been writing too long and my discourse is falling victim to the blog form, which is to say, the need to oversimplify to get on with my day.

Let me say this. I ordered some firewood a few weeks back and it turned out the guy I was talking to was somebody who went to high school with me, a good guy who had had a career on the local police force and then had gotten injured on the job, discharged as disabled, and totally screwed by the police pension plan because he didn't quite make 20 years. Our views are very different on gun control and perhaps on many things, but he teaches courses on gun safety and is a 100% excellent human being. He told many stories of being on the job, being in danger, trying to help people of color, and I think he is entirely earnest, and certainly took much more risk than I ever have and has served the public nobly and honorably. I look forward to talking to him more as life moves on.  It was, frankly, one of the highlights of recent months. I probably already blogged about it.

No comments: