WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) — After a Kechi Police lieutenant was arrested for using the Wichita Police Department’s (WPD) FLOCK license plate reading system to track his estranged wife, FactFinder 12 wanted to know who had access to the system.
Technically, every time a citizen drives with a FLOCK camera, the system monitors him. The cameras are intended to help law enforcement officials find criminals, recover stolen property, or locate missing or vulnerable people.
If someone has had their vehicle stolen and it has been reported to police and the vehicle drives past a FLOCK camera, officers are alerted to the last known location. The system continues to track the vehicle as it passes other FLOCK cameras. But that means other people driving the stolen vehicle at the same time will also be caught by the cameras.
According to the WPD, the video will be stored for 30 days and should only be viewed for investigative purposes. Investigators say the Kechi police lieutenant had no legal reason to track where his estranged wife was driving.
“I received a call from another officer who was concerned that the FLOCK system was being abused,” said WPD FLOCK Administrator, Lt. Casey Slaughter. “I looked up the network audit because there is an audit trail that is kept with FLOCK every single keystroke of everything looked up in the system. I found that the person who worked for the Kechi Police Department actually looked up some things that he shouldn’t have looked up.”
Slaughter said WPD said officers should only use the FLOCK system to help with investigations, but that’s just WPD policy. The state of Kansas has no state law regarding the FLOCK system. Max Kautsch, president of the Kansas Coalition for Open Government, said there should be laws preventing officials from using the system for personal reasons.
“What’s really disappointing is that all the other states that have these laws have these types of borders built in, but Kansas doesn’t. Now let’s see what happens. So, dear license readers, it’s a technology where we can go back and forth as to whether this particular technology represents privacy benefits versus law enforcement benefits,” Kautsch said. “The fact that the law authorizing its use in Kansas is not consistent with the other laws in that country, there is more opportunity for abuse, and we see that here.”
After the incident, FactFinder 12 asked WPD what changes could be made to the policy to ensure officers could not use the system for personal use.
“We go through annual policy accruals, there are things we can always do to try and improve things. If there’s a silver lining to this whole thing, then if you abuse this FLOCK system, it will show everyone in our department and outside that that’s what’s going to happen,” Slaughter said. “You will get caught, you will probably go to jail, you could lose your job and I think you probably should. This is a powerful system, in the words of the Spiderman film, with great power comes great responsibility.”
Slaughter said he was willing to help draft legislation to prevent abuse of the FLOCK system.
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