MD Police Database With Orwellian Potential


Nearly every law enforcement officer in Maryland has a new tool called “Dashboard” that draws data from at least two dozen separate sources and funnels the information onto a single computer screen, says the Baltimore Sun. New computer-generated maps show the location of all the protective orders filed by battered women that need to be served by police in Maryland, but they can isolate the ones for spouses with gun licenses. Maybe those are the ones that should be served first. Not only can they show the location of every bar, tavern, and liquor store in Baltimore, but they can zoom in on ones surrounded by homes of violent offenders. Maybe those are the bars beat cops should patrol more closely. Not only can they show unsolved homicides clumped in one part of the city, but whether any convicts out on probation for violent offenses live nearby.

Want to know how much money a convicted felon had in his prison bank account? It’s there. Want to know if the man you think raped his neighbor has his DNA on file? It’s there. Want to know if someone is on probation? Not only can you find out he is, but you’ll find others in his neighborhood who are, the names of their probation agents, whether they have hunting or fishing licenses, lists of traffic tickets, whether they’re registered sex offenders or owe back taxes. In just five weeks, cops across the state have conducted more than 10,000 searches of the database. The maps and data might lead to more patrols and tighter scrutiny, might even be combined with other intelligence to build a criminal case. In the end, police will be judged not only on the usefulness of the information but also on how they use it. It shouldn’t be dismissed as Orwellian, but the cops need to understand its Orwellian potential, says Sun crime beat reporter Peter Hermann.

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