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Houston Police Chief Wants Cameras in Homes 804

Posted by Zonk
from the would-be-funnier-if-it-wasn't-true dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In one of the most blatant and frightening statements made on privacy, the Associated Press reports that Houston's police chief wants surveillance cameras in apartment buildings and even private homes. Chief Harold Hurtt wants building permits to require cameras in shopping malls and large apartment complexes. He also wants them in private homes if the homeowner has called the police repeatedly. So, if you're in Houston, don't call the cops too much, or they might install a camera the next time they show up. And what does Hurtt have to say about privacy concerns? 'I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?'"
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Houston Police Chief Wants Cameras in Homes

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  • unreal (Score:5, Funny)

    by oedneil (871555) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:37AM (#14747930) Homepage
    How can someone say something that crazy and be taken seriously? Who does he think he is, Dvorak?
    • Re:unreal (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      He's a chief of police for a major metro area. That means he thinks it's our job as citizens to make his job as easy as possible. He's wrong, of course, but not many people will call him on it in the brave new post-9/11 world we live in.
    • An alternative (Score:5, Interesting)

      by freedom_india (780002) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:33AM (#14748312) Homepage Journal
      One alternative is to fix up a couple of cameras in Police Stations under his precinct and stream the video to ALL tax-paying citizens who fund the cops jobs.

      This idea is constitutional and is permitted by US constitution in that the the citizens have a right to monitor the government.

      As far as am concerned, THAT is a true use of my money. I get to exactly note how my money is spent.

      What do you say Mr.Policeman?

      • the local donut shop! Wouldn't want to miss out on that "vital police activity", right?

        Live streaming of in-car audio and all police radio transmissions could be next.
      • Re:An alternative (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ChrisMaple (607946) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @10:34AM (#14749185)
        GPS and speed recording of all police cars. Automated issuing of tickets with mandatory fines deducted from pay for all instances of speeding unless siren or light bar are active.
      • by wideBlueSkies (618979) * on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:41PM (#14749741) Journal
        Parent's comment reminded me of a case from a few years back.

        There was a congressman...or was it a police chief...who favored the position that once garbage was placed at the curb, it was considered abandoned by the owner, and was not subject to search by warrant. The police could just pick up any given bag of trash and search for evidence...no privacy concerns.

        All was well until a local paper picked through his trash and publised the contents...unread magazines and solicitation letters... food boxes...that's what I remember.

        Man, was he pissed...and suddenly his view didn't apply to him.

        So, hell yes, let's put publicly accessable GPS devices in police cars, let's have webcams in police stations...in every room. Let's watch the watchers.

        Also reminds me of that sherrif in Arizona who had webcams in his jail...the man was ahead of his time.
    • Re:unreal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GuyverDH (232921) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @09:04AM (#14748878)
      The cure is simple.

      Install the first camera(s) in this Police Chief's house - in every room, then wire it up to the public access channel.

      Install the 2nd set of camera(s) in the Mayor's house.

      Finally, the Police Chief's and Mayor's office.

      Simply claim, if you aren't doing anything wrong, why should you mind being monitored 24x7, and since you both are in public office, your lives are now 100% public.
    • not "IN homes" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 1u3hr (530656) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @09:34AM (#14748971)
      How can someone say something that crazy

      He didn't, of course. The submitter (or perhaps Zonk) made that up. He never said "IN homes". he said "in large apartment complexes", meaning the public areas, and the exact words for honmes: "if a homeowner requires repeated police response, it is reasonable to require camera surveillance of the property". Which means the OUTSIDE of a property, unless the police chief is a raving lunatic. The lack of emphasis on this in TFA indicats this was understood to be the meaning. Not to say there are no problems with the idea, but argue about what he actually proposed.

  • Good god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kraeloc (869412) <kyletNO@SPAMdefinitive.com> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:38AM (#14747932)
    Someone hit that guy over the head with a copy of 1984.
    • Re:Good god (Score:5, Funny)

      by mrchaotica (681592) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:04AM (#14748040)
      Better make sure it's a hardcover edition!
    • Re:Good god (Score:4, Interesting)

      by u-235-sentinel (594077) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:20AM (#14748088) Homepage Journal
      Someone hit that guy over the head with a copy of 1984.

      Then fire the dumbass. Some people just don't understand that crap will not be tolerated.

      Our country was not founded on this crap. Hell, if anyone reads the writing of our Founding Fathers, Documents such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independance, they might just learn we're taught to overthrow the government when they abuse the people. If this crap goes unchecked then what alternative do we have?

      I know it sounds bad but then again, it IS their words and hope we protect the country from idiots like him.
    • reality (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:31AM (#14748130)
      Someone hit that guy over the head with a copy of 1984

      Where do you think he got his ideas from? Seriously. Most people read 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, and are either frightened, or mildly disturbed ("That'd never happen. People would be outraged!")

      People like him read 1984 and think, "I wouldn't use those cameras like that...", missing the point completely.

      Police these days are so far removed from reality, it's not even funny. I recently read an article about police stepping up speeding enforcement on "the most deadly road" in a particular county in (I believe) Ohio. The officers bragged about writing 40+ speeding tickets in two hours, using a LIDAR gun ($2k-$4k each, often paid for by Geico), one officer clocking vehicles, and 4-5 motorcycle units pulling people over. They talked about how they really want to get one patrol car to spend one day each week sitting out pulling over speeders, and they were makin' the roads safe.

      Except the reason that the highway is so deadly is because it's a single lane highway with nothing but a double yellow line between you and oncoming traffic; the fatalities are from head-on collisions.

      So instead of patrolling the road and pulling over anyone who tries to pass on a double-yellow, they write speeding tickets, making more people drive EXACTLY the speed limit, which is only bound to result in more idiots trying to pass the "law abiding" "safer" drivers. Not to mention, they're pulling people over on a single-lane highway, where all those flashing lights and whatnot are a major distraction.

      Way to go, guys!

      • Re:reality (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IcePop456 (575711) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:09AM (#14748391)

        If you really look at traffic laws, saftey is not the top priority. Money is. Most people don't weave in and out of lanes for the fun of it. They do it because cops don't enforce the keep to the right policy. Try that on the Autobahn in German. In fact, the unrestricted speed parts of the Autobahn are one of, if not the, safest stretches of highways. Why? 1) Good design 2) strict enforcement of driving habits that actually yield accidents. Speed doesn't kill - the accident does. Speed just makes it more likely you'll be sorry after that accident. Road rage is one thing, but has anyone spent some time investigating why people are getting this rage? Are we all nuts or just sick of other inconsiderate drivers?

        How about those seat belt check points? If I don't wear my seat belt, who am I going to hurt? Ok fine, parents can be more responsible for their children. I guess there's a finite chance you could become a missle in an accident and hurt someone else with your flying body. In reality, this is just another cash cow. A few years ago a State trooper was killed in NJ when he was hit at a toll booth checking for seat belts (fell into on coming traffic). Try explaining that one to his family.

        ...and don't get me started about GEICO (or auto insurance in general).

      • Re:reality (Score:5, Interesting)

        by NitsujTPU (19263) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:21AM (#14748412)
        That's better than one speeding ticket I got.

        I had a crack in the engine block of my old 1989 Toyota Celica. The car was beaten up, and wouldn't accelerate quickly. In city traffic, I had a hard time breaking 35 miles an hour. I didn't want to invest any more money in the car, and so let it die peacefully of old age while looking around at Camaros.

        I was driving around in Maryland, I forget the name of the town, and there's a stretch of road, that goes something like 35 to 25 to 35 again, in a stretch of only a couple blocks. There's an old, closed gas station, there. I'm driving in to work one morning on a business trip that had me commuting from Waldorf to Lexington Park. Driving... not fast, since my car couldn't, at this time, go fast.

        So, a police officer, no lie... walks out in front of my car, holds his hand up, and stops me, waves me in to the gas station, and writes me a speeding ticket, 19 miles per hour over so I don't have to show up in court. I go, "but officer, I can't have been speeding," (and to this day, I know that I can't have been), and he just gives me this sharp tone that says he's going to make it a lot worse on me if I don't just pay the fine. I paid it, driving another 200 miles to fight the ticket didn't sound like it made an ouce of sense.

        Essentially, according to him, he walked out in front of a vehicle going 45 miles per hour in order to pull it over. Additionally, my vehicle that was highly unlikely to be going 45 miles per hour at all in stop and go traffic would have had to have been going that fast less than a half-mile or so in front of where he decide to slowly walk out in front of my car in order to bring it to a stop.

        My guess is, since there were 3 other police cars pulled in at the same gas station, all writing tickets for other cars, that this is a common offense in that town.
        • by porkThreeWays (895269) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @07:13AM (#14748626)
          I work in local government. I am around cops all day. 2 of my friends actually became cops. Over the period of 2 years while training and first year of service, you can definatly see a change in their attitude. They become very detached from reality. I think very few cops these days actually become officers to uphold the law and make the world a better place. Some do it for the rush and excitment. A lot do it for the power. Some do it simply because it's a steady government job that doesn't require anything more than a high school diploma.

          A great deal of police think that if you were clocked at 45, you were going 45 and you are just lying. There's this attitude that if you were pulled over or arrested, you are guilty (even before trial). If not, that would mean the police are wrong (oh my, god forbid that!).

          What happened to you is actually a common police tactic. Not ticketing you for the primary accused charge, but some made up lesser charge (seat belt, tail light, reduced speeding ticket). Most people won't fight it because they are scared if they get in court the officer might bring up the original charge and have a huge ticket. Guilt or innocence has nothing to do with it. Which is sad, because a lot of people pay for tickets they should fight because they are scared. The police are very aware of this and use it as a common tactic to make a ticket stick.

          And that's the sad state of many police departments in the united states. Making the world safe and fair for us by upholding the law is only about 10% of their motivation anymore. Revenue and power through selective accusations seems to really trump that these days.

          I can't even tell you how many times I've seen the police flick on their lights just to run a red light. Or let off their friends when they pull them over. The clincher? I'm at a crowded restaurant one night (30 minute wait time). Cop walks in with two chicks, looks at the line. Walks right past everyone and finds a recently vacant table. Asks them to clean it and sits right down. And no one said anything because he was a cop. That really sums up their attitude right there.
          • by gruntled (107194) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @07:57AM (#14748719)
            Not sure I'm following you here; I got pulled over for doing ten miles an hour over the limit during a laser training exercise (old cop and new cop). Old cop checks me out, walks back to my car and offers to write me up a ticket for not having my seatbelt on instead of a speeding ticket (I did have my seatbelt on at the time). I intially got a little hot about this when the cop offered it to me, but he pointed out that a seat belt violation had no points, doesn't affect my insurance rates, and it's a lot cheaper than a speeding ticket. I genuinely felt like the cop was cutting me a break, acknowledging that normally I wouldn't have even been pulled over in that situation. The last time I got a ticket before that I also got pulled over for speeding but instead of writing me up for speeding, a California cop cited me for not having the car registered in the state (which I needed to do anyway). Again, no points, no insurance penalty, blah blah. Now, in both these instances I was speeding; how is the issuance of a non-moving violation to me in this situation abuse of power? Both times I was and remain exceedingly grateful to those cops who recognized that I wasn't endangering anybody with my driving (and of course I didn't have any outstanding warrants).
            • by dfghjk (711126) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @11:36AM (#14749430)
              Selective enforcement is an abuse of power whether suffer from it or not. Perhaps you are more attractive than the other poster. Perhaps you are a girl with big tits or a mother/grandmother that looks sweet and innocent. Perhaps you are frequently the officer's type. Doesn't matter. Fact is that society treats people unequally based on appearance. That goes for men as well as women.

              In 25+ years of driving I've been let off exactly one time because I'm not the kind of driver that gets let off with a warning. Just because you've can recall more times than I've ever experienced doesn't make you a better driver or mean that police don't abuse their power. In fact, it's evidence of it.
          • Cop walks in with two chicks, looks at the line. Walks right past everyone and finds a recently vacant table. Asks them to clean it and sits right down.

            Oh c'mon, Mr. porkThreeWays, you may as well admit that this was you and this is your MO. : p
          • I know of someone who got routinely pulled over for speeding, in a particular part of town that was impossible to avoid, from a practical standpoint (as in drive 50 miles out of your way aroind the town) when he wasn't. He fought some of the tickets, but the judge got so incensed that he'd order him to "pay the damn thing and don't waste the court's time or your money!" (fighting the ticket cost way more than the ticket, but it became a matter of principle).

            This became so irritating, that he had one of hi

        • It's not at all surprising to hear the endless stories of government cops ticketing or even arresting people on false charges all the time. After all, it's not like you hired them. It's not like they're responsible to citizens; they don't lose pay or get fired for poor performance, except under the most unusual circumstances.

          In spite of the best intentions of many police officers to "stay honest" (whatever that means to them), their masters are the politicians who make the rules, civil servants trying to in
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:39AM (#14747935) Homepage Journal
    Sure, if you're not doing anything wrong, let's put a camera in your house. First up, Cheif of Police. Why should he worry? Of course, *he* isn't doing anything wrong. What would he have to hide?
    • by JudgeFurious (455868) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:16AM (#14748079)
      I live in Houston, or more accurately "near" Houston and there's a reason. The current mayor is big on things like this. Cameras at intersections have been implemented to catch anyone who runs the lights (but hey if you're not doing anything wrong then why would you mind right?) and mandatory towing if you stall out on the freeway are brilliant ideas of his.

        You can't even refuse the tow and in the case of a flat tire where you're on the shoulder you better get it changed before a wrecker pulls up or they'll shove you out of the way and hook your car up. It's hard to beat the wreckers because they have cameras covering just about every inch of the freeway system here and they dispatch one to you the moment you pull out of the main lanes.

        It's not surprising that they're angling for more cameras. They've been talking for a few months about putting cameras in the downtown district for our "protection".

        I think that this new proposal needs a pilot program before we adopt it. The Police chief should have to live with a camera in his house for a year or so before he can put one in anyone elses house. I'd like to see how he likes it.
      • by DreamerFi (78710) <john@@@sinteur...com> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:14AM (#14748399) Homepage
        they dispatch one to you the moment you pull out of the main lanes.

        Get a group of, say, 20 people together who dislike this policy (should not be too difficult). Get all 20 in their cars on different parts of the road system. At a predetermined time, all of the pull over, sit on the shoulder for 60 seconds, and start moving again.

        Repeat two or three times a day, during a week or two, change it to no longer all do it at the same time, but in 15 minute intervals.

        See if the policy survives...
      • Cameras at intersections have been implemented to catch anyone who runs the lights (but hey if you're not doing anything wrong then why would you mind right?)

        While I agree with the rest of your post, I don't think anyone has a reasonble right to privacy while out in public. The fact that your city abuses it in such a retarded way notwithstanding, cameras in public I have no problem with. Privacy in public makes no sense, and unless it's being abused (which, in your case, it is), I would have no complaints.
    • Will the police chief have a camera in his apartment?
    • by iendedi (687301) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:42AM (#14748170) Journal
      "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

      Wrong, according to whom? You? The mormon manning the camera who thinks drinking is against God's law? The Jewish officer next to the Mormon who has a problem with my delight in cooking pork?

      Everybody sees the world through their own lenses of right and wrong. If I am being observed by somoene with a radically different belief structure than my own, it stands to reason that in their eyes I very well may be doing something wrong. It is completely the right decision to want to hide my behaviors from such people, allowing them to navigate through the world with their own peculiar perceptions without slapping their personal prejudices against me.

      We do not live in a homogenous society. We live in a society of great diversity where people are offended on a reasonably consistent basis by the behavior of others in society. Offense and prejudice breed harassment and worse. It is absolutely critical that people hide their personal lives from each other, and especially those who have the authority to act on their prejudices. Anyone who thinks differently - well, those are the ones who have the most dangerous prejudices of all - the ones who think they have the authority and RIGHT to force their view of the world on others.
  • by raider_red (156642) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:40AM (#14747942) Journal
    'I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?'

    This is the most cliched argument that any law enformcemnt officer could ever give. the answer to it is that it's none of my business what you're doing, and that it's not your place to decide what's right or wrong. That's what we have legislators for. There are very good reasons for resisting the erosion of privacy, and one of them is to keep assholes like this out of our lives.
    • Hunters (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:58AM (#14748017)
      Saved in my permanent archive of text bits for just such an occasion as this, is a post to Slashdot a couple months ago. Disclaimer: It's NOT written by me. Also, you can see the three lines or so were quoted as part of the thread.

      Bonus goodie points to the person who actually names the logical fallacy behind "if you have nothing to hide" etc. If possible, please include a link. More people need to know how to intelligently refute arguments such as these.

      "Yeah! Hunters don't kill the *innocent* animals - they look for the shifty-eyed ones that are probably the criminal element of their species!"

      "If the're not guilty, why are they running?"

        I wrote about this a while ago. Here's the text:

      "If you haven't done anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

      Ever heard that one? I work in information security, so I have heard it more than my fair share. I've always hated that reasoning, because I am a little bit paranoid by nature, something which serves me very well in my profession. So my standard response to people who have asked that question near me has been "because I'm paranoid." But that doesn't usually help, since most people who would ask that question see paranoia as a bad thing to begin with. So for a long time I've been trying to come up with a valid, reasoned, and intelligent answer which shoots the holes in the flawed logic that need to be there.

      And someone unknowingly provided me with just that answer today. In a conversation about hunting, somebody posted this about prey animals and hunters:
      "Yeah! Hunters don't kill the *innocent* animals - they look for the shifty-eyed ones that are probably the criminal element of their species!"
      but in a brilliant (and very funny) retort, someone else said:
      "If the're not guilty, why are they running?"

      Suddenly it made sense, that nagging thing in the back of my head. The logical reason why a reasonable dose of paranoia is healthy. Because it's one thing to be afraid of the TRUTH. People who commit murder or otherwise deprive others of their Natural Rights are afraid of the TRUTH, because it is the light of TRUTH that will help bring them to justice.

      But it's another thing entirely to be afraid of hunters. And all too often, the hunters are the ones proclaiming to be looking for TRUTH. But they are more concerned with removing any obstactles to finding the TRUTH, even when that means bulldozing over people's rights (the right to privacy, the right to anonymity) in their quest for it. And sadly, these people often cannot tell the difference between the appearance of TRUTH and TRUTH itself. And these, the ones who are so convinced they have found the TRUTH that they stop looking for it, are some of the worst oppressors of Natural Rights the world has ever known.

      They are the hunters, and it is right and good for the prey to be afraid of the hunters, and to run away from them. Do not be fooled when a hunter says "why are you running from me if you have nothing to hide?" Because having something to hide is not the only reason to be hiding something.
      • Re:Hunters (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:07AM (#14748049)
        In other words, people need the right to privacy not because they've done something wrong, but because the authorities could do something wrong.
        • Re:Hunters (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jZnat (793348) *
          I would think so. If it can be abused, you bet your ass it will be. 1984 goes into many details (some even esoteric) regarding this. What happens when the government changes the definition of "doing wrong" to something you (and many others) felt was "doing right"? The US was formed on this principle that the tyrants of England at the time were completely in the wrong; why do the same thing that caused the US to break off from England?
      • by cgenman (325138) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:24AM (#14748287) Homepage
        "If you haven't done anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

        1. People have an annoying habit of abusing their power. Statistically, there are just as many criminal police officers as there are criminal normal citizens. I certainly wouldn't give an average citizen, for example, decryption keys to the password file on my computer. I don't want to give an entire police department a video feed entering credit card numbers into websites. Or plans for protest marches at the RNC. Or meetings, for example, of a group trying to get a new police chief elected. The police and other information gathering organizations have in the past most definitely not been bastions of holyness when it comes to ethical management of valuable information.

        2. There are secrets people have that aren't illegal. Maybe you're seeing a psychological councelor, and the stigma attached with that could lose your job if that slips out. Maybe you got really drunk and made a mistake that you don't want to break up your family. Maybe J Edgar Hoover just doesn't want people to know that he wears women's underwear. Why should people know any of that? Why take the risk of telling that to people, and just pray that it doesn't 'slip out'.

        3. Because there are lots of little things we do every day that break the rules. These include: j-walking, downloading MP3's, subletting without telling your landlord, recording sporting events without express written concent, undocumented domestic help, recreational drug use, stealing cable, logging on to other people's wireless networks, "leaking" company information to your girlfriend, anything besides the missionary position (in many states), cheating on your wife (in many states), rolling stops on empty streets, u-turns in the middle of empty streets, locking your bicycle to the handrailing, lying about your age to get into movies, lying about your age to get senior citizens discounts, lying about your age to avoid getting senior citizens discounts, telling your company that you're "sick" when you really mean you're "sick and tired of this crappy job," not reporting e-bay sales as taxable income, grabbing an extra newspaper when someone else buys one from the machine, putting chairs in the street to save your parking spot, stealing office supplies, stealing the towels, littering, loitering, the office NCAA pool, etc etc. All of these are necessary for the functioning of our society in some way or another, but are illegal. Yet we would go batshit insane without a few personal pet vices.

        And the system has been built with this in mind: nobody wants to stop your weekly 5$ poker match, they wanted to stop the gambling houses where people lost their rent money. Enforce the letter of the law, and the intent of the law gets lost.

        4. Because there is a big difference between serving the public interest and fascism.
  • by Chordonblue (585047) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:41AM (#14747946) Homepage Journal
    ...until there are cameras EVERYWHERE... Sorta like in the U.K. now, what is it - four cameras for every citizen? Sad, really but look at it this way: Has anyone ever done something to your car or your property while you were sleeping? Didn't you want to know who the bastard was that did it? See, it's CHEAP enough now to set up camera spying and expense was the only real reason it hasn't been done before.

  • Oh please... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g253 (855070) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:42AM (#14747949) Homepage
    but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?

    Because, you miserable idiot, that's not the point. The point is the right to privacy, the point is the state minding its own business, not the citizen's.

    Does this happen in the same country where people don't want an id card because of privacy concerns? Amazing.
  • By counter-example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by massivefoot (922746) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:43AM (#14747955)
    I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?

    Try telling that to Shi Tao http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0909/p01s03-woap.htm l [csmonitor.com]. Perhaps Mr Hurtt would like a camera in his home, given that he seems so enthusiastic about them? Maybe it could be placed in his bedroom, or somewhere equally degrading.

    Anyway, doesn't the fourth amendment protect against unreasonable search and seizure? I'm pretty sure this would count as an unreasonable search.
    • by raider_red (156642) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:49AM (#14747981) Journal
      Another counter example:

      Chief Hurtt is an African American. In the sixties, Martin Luther King was the victim of illegal wiretapping by Hoover's FBI. How would he respond to an assertion that 'If Dr. King is doing nothing worng, why should he worry about our wiretapping.'

      You'll install a camera in my house over my dead body.
  • Not with a bang (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Recovering Hater (833107) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:43AM (#14747956)
    But with a wimper. I suppose that is how freedom will make its' exit. That this isn't being shouted down by the city of Houston is appalling. The city council will slap this down if they are smart. We have all read the quote that goes something like "Those that would trade essential liberty for safety have neither." It still remains true. The canary in the cage in the coal mine is dying I think. Is anyone going to notice the little yellow birds' demise?
  • oh wait... why does this not come as a suprize.... and in all honesty, this is probably a made up article by some left wing nut (note i'm in the middle)
  • Houston is the ultimate Bush Country.
  • I've already got four cameras in my house. Two in my bedroom, one in my bathroom over the shower, one in my kitchen. I don't need your shit in my house, if I want it, I could just publically broadcast my shit to you. Leave me the hell alone until I WANT extra cameras in my house, and start respecting my 4th Amendment rights.
  • by helioquake (841463) * on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:48AM (#14747978) Journal
    What should I worry about? Not much.

    But I have to say that I can't always trust police. They are only human, too.
    • Well you know there is an old Hungarian proverb:

      "It's all fun and games until they discover your collection of hamster porn."

      Just spare a thought for the the sweaty cop watching when you get intimate with your right hand/wife/girlfriend/mistress/boyfriend/pet-spider and be sure to wave to the camera once in a while.
  • Brainstorm? (Score:5, Funny)

    by rk (6314) * on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:48AM (#14747979) Journal

    "He (Houston Mayor Bill White) called the chief's proposal a 'brainstorm' rather than a decision."

    I'd call it a brainfart, myself. This is something so creepifying I almost want to say it's a bogus article.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:49AM (#14747983)
    There's more than one idiot from Texas.
  • by jjh37997 (456473) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:50AM (#14747992) Homepage
    If police chief Harold Hurtt wants to put a camera in my home be my guest.... so long as I can watch a live feed of him in his home and at the police station. If someone wants to track my movements with a camera I say go ahead.... but only if I get to know who's watching me and I have the ability to watch them back. An open and transparent society can make the world both safe and free. The only thing wrong with traditional surveillance is the imbalence of power between the watchers and the watched.

  • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:58AM (#14748018)
    And it happens to reside *right* in front of the camera! Oh Darn, poor me.
  • by shoolz (752000) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @02:59AM (#14748028) Homepage
    "...but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?"

    Because I want to scratch my balls while watching hockey naked, fart while making nachos in the kitchen, and have passionate sex with my wife on the couch and dining room table.

    And here's the kicker... I DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT IT.
  • by JRHelgeson (576325) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:20AM (#14748086) Homepage Journal
    First, nobody is talking about live surveilance in homes. He's talking about all the times that cops get called out to domesic violence 5 times per week to the same house. Put a closed circuit camera in the house with a padlocked VHS recorder. That way its no longer he-said-she-said...

    People have NO IDEA the type of assholes cops have to deal with.
    • by bxbaser (252102) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:48AM (#14748461)
      5 times per week to the same house
      then later
      2 times per month to the same house
      then later
      2 times per 6 monthes to the same street
      then later
      we are installing cameras because its the law

      Any liberties violated are precursers to total enslavement you just have to wait long enough.
  • by Tux2000 (523259) <alexander.slashdot@foken@de> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:28AM (#14748118) Homepage Journal
    ... just wait until I find some pictures of my granny naked at the age of 80 that I can hang in front of the camera, covering the entire lens. You want to add a microphone? Sure, if you want me to add a headphone and an mp3 player playing an endless loop of my entire modem handshake sound collection. ;-)

    Tux2000
  • by geekotourist (80163) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:30AM (#14748122) Journal
    The former privacy commissioner of Canada addressed this in his extremely sharp essay [privcom.gc.ca] and overview on privacy rights in Canada. The whole overview is worth reading: he addresses why privacy is a fundamental human right, and he's warning Canada not to give away rights now eroded or gone in the U.S., especially if its at the U.S. government's request. (The sad part about the proverbial frog in the warming water is that everyone thinks that if you *know* about the frog in the pot, you can't possibly *be* the frog in the pot. He's telling Canadians about what Americans have already lost. i.e. Do you remember that the "nothing to hide" cliche once was a mostly sarcastic comment, and not an earnest statement?)

    "If we have to live our lives weighing every action, every communication, every human contact, wondering what agents of the state might find out about it, analyze it, judge it, possibly misconstrue it, and somehow use it to our detriment, we are not truly free..."

    "...If someone intrudes on our privacy - by peering into our home, going through the personal things in our office desk, reading over our shoulder on a bus or airplane, or eavesdropping on our conversation - we feel uncomfortable, even violated.

    Imagine, then, how we will feel if it becomes routine for bureaucrats, police officers and other agents of the state to paw through all the details of our lives: where and when we travel, and with whom; who are the friends and acquaintances with whom we have telephone conversations or e-mail correspondence; what we are interested in reading or researching; where we like to go and what we like to do.

    A popular response is: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

    By that reasoning, of course, we shouldn't mind if the police were free to come into our homes at any time just to look around, if all our telephone conversations were monitored, if all our mail were read, if all the protections developed over centuries were swept away. It's only a difference of degree from the intrusions already being implemented or considered.

    The truth is that we all do have something to hide, not because it's criminal or even shameful, but simply because it's private. We carefully calibrate what we reveal about ourselves to others. Most of us are only willing to have a few things known about us by a stranger, more by an acquaintance, and the most by a very close friend or a romantic partner. The right not to be known against our will - indeed, the right to be anonymous except when we choose to identify ourselves - is at the very core of human dignity, autonomy and freedom.

    If we allow the state to sweep away the normal walls of privacy that protect the details of our lives, we will consign ourselves psychologically to living in a fishbowl. Even if we suffered no other specific harm as a result, that alone would profoundly change how we feel. Anyone who has lived in a totalitarian society can attest that what often felt most oppressive was precisely the lack of privacy.

    But there also will be tangible, specific harm.

    The more information government compiles about us, the more of it will be wrong. That's simply a fact of life. ...But if our privacy becomes ever more systematically invaded by the state for purposes of assessing our behavior and making judgments about us, wrong information and misinterpretations will have potential consequences.

    If information that is actually about someone else is wrongly applied to us, if wrong facts make it appear that we've done things we haven't, if perfectly innocent behavior is misinterpreted as suspicious because authorities don't know our reasons or our circumstances, we will be at risk of finding ourselves in trouble in a society where everyone is regarded as a suspect. By the time we clear our names and establish our innocence, we may have suffered irreparable financial or social harm... [go ahead, read the rest [privcom.gc.ca], its well-worth it.]

    • If we allow the state to sweep away the normal walls of privacy that protect the details of our lives, we will consign ourselves psychologically to living in a fishbowl. Even if we suffered no other specific harm as a result, that alone would profoundly change how we feel. Anyone who has lived in a totalitarian society can attest that what often felt most oppressive was precisely the lack of privacy.

      Well, moving into a small town or other community that has not had a lot of population turnover is the same w
  • by Quietti (257725) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:47AM (#14748188) Journal
    ...that the provision Texas gave itself for seceeding from USA should be used against Texas to kick them out of the country and bring democracy back?
  • That man, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manzanita (167643) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:47AM (#14748189)
    should lose his job.
    • Re:That man, (Score:3, Insightful)

      by l3v1 (787564)
      No, that man should never have gotten that job. There's no way he developed such ideas overnight, after getting this job. SOmebody somewhere has had to know about his views. That means they had nothing against him or his views. Wait, that wouldn't actually surprise us, given recent times, or would it...

  • by el_womble (779715) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:12AM (#14748263) Homepage
    It's the job of doctors to stop us from dying. Good Doctors, who are listened to by politians tell them that in order to prevent us from dying we should be told we should have our freedom to drink, smoke and eat whatever we liked reduced so that we all live forever. Its there job.

    It's the job of the military to keep us safe from other countries. Good Generals therefore tell politians about the dangers of terrorism and spys and how we should kill everyone else just in case they are a threat to national security, and reduce the freedom of foreign nationals whilst they are in the country.. It's their job.

    Its the job of the police to keep us safe from each other. Good Policeman, who are listened to by politians, say that the only way we can be kept safe from each other, is if our freeedoms are reduced and we are watched constantly. It's his job.

    The real problem is the politions. Its their job to up hold our freedoms. If they listen to the experts, and let them 'do they're job', then they're not doing their job - and they're the ones who are in charge - this is a constitutional republic after all.

    Never ask a barber if you need a haircut. He's always going to say "Yes". (I'm too tired t spell check)
  • by kiddailey (165202) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:33AM (#14748311) Homepage
    This particular police chief should be repremanded for these statements and issue a public apology for assuming that everyone is guilty before innocent.

    The problem I have with the whole "if you have nothing to hide..." argument is that it can be really hard to even know when/if you are doing something illegal! For a variety of reasons:

    People have a hard time separating their personal judgement from what is law

    A prime example is our history of sodomy law [wikipedia.org]. All it takes is one deeply religious person in power who is unable or unwilling to separate church from state before you have a problem.

    From the current Florida lawbooks: [state.fl.us]
    798.01 Living in open adultery.--Whoever lives in an open state of adultery shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. Where either of the parties living in an open state of adultery is married, both parties so living shall be deemed to be guilty of the offense provided for in this section.

    798.02 Lewd and lascivious behavior.--If any man and woman, not being married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or if any man or woman, married or unmarried, engages in open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
    Are you living in Florida with your unmarried girlfriend or boyfriend right now? (Oh wait, this is Slashdot :) You're breaking the law, and I doubt you're alone.

    People misinterpret things, especially when they don't understand

    What happens when big brother misinterprets your repeated login attempts because you forgot your password as attempted illegal entry into a computer system?

    Or how about when you open your e-mailbox and receive those "hot teens!" spam and you're mistaken for a pedophile because you "downloaded child porn" thanks to the attached jpeg?

    There are plenty of silly, stupid and broad laws on the books

    I won't even bother to comprehend how many silly, stupid and broad laws there are. Check out some of your state's dumb laws [nyud.net] (DumbLaws.com coral cached) and discover your true criminal identity.

    And lets not forget about the growing issue of computer crimes created by politicians who have been bought or simply don't understand. If the RIAA/MPAA gets its way, it'll soon be illegal to put a DVD in your computer or record your favorite movie aired on TV to watch later.

    ... anyway ...

    My point is that you are mistaken to think that you have nothing to worry about if you've supposedly done nothing wrong.

    First, everyone in this country has probably broken or will eventually break a law or two unknowingly or willingly. And secondly, history has proven that whoever has the power to monitor the people will undoubtably abuse that power according to their beliefs and to their advantage -- whether it's in public locations or in the privacy of your own home.
    • by dustmite (667870) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @09:53AM (#14749036)

      To quote Ayn Rand (from Atlas Shrugged)

      ""Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.""

  • Innocent until? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Shotgun (832121) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:44AM (#14748336)
    "I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?" Chief Harold Hurtt told reporters Wednesday at a regular briefing.

    Ok Chief, let me clue you in. In this country people are innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. People should not be required to repeatedly prove their innocence to your satisfaction by being subjected to 24/7 monitoring.

    It is your job as a police officer to respond to criminal complaints, protect the innocent, and arrest the persons reasonably suspected of committing those crimes. Police officers have been performing those tasks long before you came along and they did it without the benefit of modern investigative technology. And they also did it without subjecting the entire citizenry to invasive monitoring such as what you are proposing. If you and your officers are not up to the task, you may want to consider a career change because you are obviously not going to live up to the level of you predecessors.

    The only other alternative I could suggest is a reeducation camp, with the purpose of instructing you and yours in the finer aspects of our US constitution and criminal investigation procedures. Perhaps Guantanamo is free for a few months?
  • by Dash Hash (955484) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:28AM (#14748423)
    While the thought of cameras inside private residences frightens me, I'm not sure that this is what the article is going for. The blurb up top says "He also wants them in private homes..." but nowhere in the linked article did I read that.
    What was stated, was that he wanted cameras watching the property. "And if a homeowner requires repeated police response, it is reasonable to require camera surveillance of the property, he said."

    Cameras in malls and large apartment complexes are actually quite common. Having a camera watching the halls and lobbies should not affect normal people at all. A camera which is used for watching private property is not /too/ much different, as long as it is placed outside of the house (probably watching the road in front of it, the driveway and the walk up to the front door). To me, it sounds like that is all he's talking about.
    Of course, having a camera /inside/ the home is a totally different issue, and any who suggest it should be thrown from whichever office they currently hold.

  • by AaronLawrence (600990) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @06:21AM (#14748520)
    It's not that average decent people (or police) change their minds and become spying power hungry scum. It's that the ones who already have those tendencies gravitate towards positions of power. In times of crisis, these people see their opportunity and push. A bit more power for me, a bit less for you. And that makes it easier for those power seekers to get together.

    Where does it end up? History shows some examples.
  • The problem is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jonwil (467024) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @06:36AM (#14748550)
    When They (as in the government and the cops who operate the cameras) redefine "doing something wrong" and use the cameras to bust you. Or when the people monitoring the cameras mis-interperate what they see.

    Also, who will pay for these cameras? Will the taxpayers pay more tax? If not, where will the money come from?

    And, finally, which camera manufacturer left the big black suitcase full of unmarked bills in the police chiefs car in return for suggesting this?

    Not knowing anything about Houston or Texas politics, I have no idea if this guy is just spouting his mouth off or if there is an actual chance that this will be implemented, any Texans want to enlighten me?
  • A little History (Score:4, Informative)

    by Alchemar (720449) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @09:32AM (#14748965)
    This guy makes for an interesting goolge search.

    Disappointed about not having anyone to arrest they arrest everyone at K-Mart [kuro5hin.org]. They actually practiced at a Wendy's restraunt the week before. I believe with the mayor and police chief watching. They even arrested families that had a receipt showing that they were waiting for food, for tresspassing. In order to crack down on groups of youths collecting in high crime areas where they might cause trouble. They needed a scapegoat, and so after the backlash, it became the officer in charge at the scene decided to do it on his own. The test a Wendy's was determined to be an "unrelated" incident

    And we can be sure that he would protect are constitution rights. Just like he would for his own officers. So why not put the cameras in. You can't talk to anyone if you criticize my department [azpolice.org]

    But he just wants to make sure that everyone is not breaking the law. Unless they are an illegal immigrant [alipac.us]. The police chief has issued a direct order to police that they cannot enforce any immigration laws because it creates to much political conflict with city officals getting relected. I just have trouble with the police being told they cannot enforce a law. At this point the Police chief has become lawmaker & enforcer. If they want the illegal immigrants to stay, they need to change the laws, not give the police chief the right to do whatever he wants.
  • Being Watched (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FrankN (856136) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:04PM (#14749573) Homepage
    I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?

    My question is, if I'm not doing anything wrong, why do I need to be watched?

    Frank
    Houston, TX

  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @03:36PM (#14750852) Journal
    .... lets put cameras in the police department streamed to the internet and GPS in police cars and politicians too, especially those who have plenty of people who don't like them....

    People in general, are not so honest. Being a police officer is NOT an excuse or and exception to the facts.

    I can think of a whole lot of situations that would open up a risk factor for cameras invading police departments, politicians and really anybody.

    A country willing to sacrifice freedom in exchange for security, shall have neither nor deserve neither.

    Ben Franklin and Rosevelt got it, how come the current administration doesn't?

    Maybe they need a test run of these cameras on police and politicians....in order to learn why thats the way it works in reality.

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