BRAWLEY – The City of Brawley is considering integrating a cloud-based, real-time crime center into its investigative arsenal as a means of offsetting officer shortages and increasing efficiency within the Brawley Police Department, Brawley Chief of Police Jimmy Duran said during a city council meeting on May 16.
Serious concerns surrounding a breach of the 4th amendment, however, have been raised by some advocacy groups.
According to Duran, software company FUSUS is the current frontrunner in the Police Department’s year-long search for mass livestream and data integration. He says the technology is not new, and has already been implemented in many of the nation’s larger cities.
Leading technology publication, TechSpot, notes that FUSUS currently has over 33,000 supported cameras in more than 60 cities and counties nationwide.
Chief Duran described the operation as a “hub” for existing video feeds around the city, such as private feeds from storefronts and doorbell cameras. Duran said he has already spoken to schools, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Brawley, and community members who seem to generally approve of the method as a means of identifying, preventing, and solving crime.
“This technology can make a difference and allow us to do more with less,” he said.
Representative Jim Macedo of FUSUS clarified the role of the collaboration platform by characterizing it as “a unified public safety ecosystem” which enables its users to communicate seamlessly between Emergency Medical Services across the board. By operationalizing various video streams for single-screen viewing, law enforcement officers will be able to incorporate everything from body-cam live streams and in-car cameras, to license plate readers and maps which filter for criminal profiles.
Macedo emphasized that the system also utilizes gunshot detection and has the ability to trigger cameras in the affected area, should the owners have registered their cameras with the police department and given the necessary permissions. According to the FUSUS website, the potential to aid schools in intercepting an active shooter is also built into system operations. A tip line and emergency mass notification system is another point in favor of its adoption, according to Macedo.
Despite on-demand and push-button access for most related actions, Macedo claims incident video and data will be encrypted and stored safely for investigative purposes only.
Macedo said the service is often referred to as “the neighborhood watch of the 21st century” by the company's most satisfied customers, although civil rights groups are intent on resisting what they say has the potential to become a hotspot for hackers.
According to TechSpot, the system may be predisposed to misuse by the sheer amount of aggregate data in combination with the number of accessible users. In addition, critics worry that technologies like FUSUS will contribute to over-policing, profiling, and targeting minority demographics.
FUSES purportedly does not utilize Artificial Intelligence or facial recognition technologies in order to better safeguard the civil rights in question, however, opponents of the technology see it as an imminent “threat to the Fourth Amendment and a high-risk cybersecurity target full of personally identifiable information,” according to the tech news organization.
All entities advocated for transparency, although Councilmember Ramon Castro did have several follow up questions about privacy settings for cameras at private residences specifically. Councilmember Luke Hamby recognized the appeal of features beyond video feed integration.
Duran told city council members that he had previously taken the liberty of drafting a $600,000 grant in the hopes of submitting it for the BJA Smart Policing Initiative Grant. The grant was co-written by researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU) and entails that Brawley will be a testing site to study the impact of such technologies on participating communities.
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