Boston Police Object To Plan To Equip Cruisers With GPS Devices

512px-MA_-_Boston_Police_Badge220px-Boston_Police_cruiser_on_Beacon_StreetNot that long ago, police departments joined together to call upon the United States Supreme Court (with the support of the Obama Administration) to allow citizens to be tracked with GPS devices placed on their vehicles without a warrant or probable cause. The litigants argued that this was a minor intrusion into the rights of citizens and that there was no expectation of privacy in such movements. The Court wisely rejected the arguments in United States v. Jones. Now police in Boston are objecting to a plan to place such devices on their patrol cars as an unwarranted intrusion.

GPS devices allow departments to keep precise information on the location of patrol cars and alleviate the need to rely entirely on the radio for officers to confirm their location and ability to respond to calls. The burden and delay in such coordination is an obvious and unnecessary barrier to responding to crime. One officer voiced the few of his colleagues in complaining “No one likes it. Who wants to be followed all over the place?” Hmmm, sounds familiar.

41 thoughts on “Boston Police Object To Plan To Equip Cruisers With GPS Devices

  1. Here’s a dirty secret, Boston cops will go toe to toe w/ ANY police dept. on corruption and laziness. I went to school w/ a couple Boston cops and they have incredible stories. I know cops in many major cities but none of them have stories better than Boston. Hell, the most corrupt Federal law enforcement people, including US attorneys have ALWAYS been Boston. They were scared shit of Whitey Bulger, because he paid them all millions of dollars.

  2. The Peoples Republic of California want to put black boxes in everyone’s auto and tax people by the mile. What could possible be wrong w/ that? New cars do have limited black boxes in autos that tell investigators what was going on w/ the vehicle[speed, braking, etc.] the last few seconds prior to a crash.

  3. Nurses have been forced to wear tracking devices on the job for many years now, these cops need to stop whining, or such devices should be deemed an illegal intrusion on any employee’s freedom.

  4. “Boston cops outraged about GPS tracking plans”

    By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project


    Boston Police Department bosses want to install GPS monitoring devices in every patrol car, to enable dispatch to more efficiently process 911 calls. But police officers and their union are outraged, saying that the ubiquitous tracking is too invasive of their personal privacy. Tracking the location of officers as they go about their days would reveal incredibly detailed information about their lives, the officers say.

    We couldn’t agree more. Where you go says a lot about who you are. That’s why we want to ensure that Massachusetts residents are protected from warrantless location tracking, whether by GPS device, cell phone, or automatic license plate reader.

    … (info from Boston Globe report)

    Concerned officers also raised the specter of advanced hackers breaking into the systems and tracking police officers as they move about the city, potentially enabling them to evade police.

    Like the GPS devices BPD brass wants installed in cruisers, centrally managed license plate reader databases, which contain the location histories of perfectly innocent people, could be compromised by criminal hackers or even foreign governments. That’s why the best defense against exposure or abuse of this invasive information is not to build massive data stores of it in the first place.

    While on-duty tracking of public employees raises different questions than does the warrantless tracking of innocent civilians, concerned officers at the Boston Police Department are exactly right when they warn about the sensitivity of this information. As these anonymous officers and their union official argue, tracking someone’s location as they go about their day-to-day life is incredibly invasive.

    That’s why we hope police officers will join us in demanding that the state legislature pass forward-looking privacy protections to ensure that if the government wants to track a private citizen — by license plate reader, GPS device, or cell phone — it needs to first get a warrant.

    Cross-posted from the ACLU of Massachusetts PrivacySOS blog.

  5. Boston cops don’t make “taco stops.” They make Dunkin Donut, chowda, and pizza stops, and they stay a wicked long time.

  6. I follow the sentences of the article literally. If police were favor of the GPS tracking and then the Supreme Court ruled against this and now they are against this it seems like they are following the law. Maybe it is the broad use of the word “police”. Could it be that in Boston the Police Department is in favor of it and the Police individuals are against it? It is perhaps a matter of casual use of words in the article. But I would say that if a cop does not want it on his police car then he get another job at Dunkin Donuts where he will be closer to those who know and care for him on a daily basis without regard for where he is.

  7. Aren’t police officers employees of the city and are they not driving city cars? Why can’t an employer know where those cars are going and what there employees are doing?

  8. police forces around the country have been essentially acting as thugs for the security state, monitering, roughing up and arresting activists…but oh, that double standard…
    what is also interesting is that the local forces are often acting against those who truly represent their interests (the lower, middle classes) and for the wealthy elite who benefit from many of our current govt/corporate state’s policies.

  9. raff, This GPS issue was part of a new union contract and the union put in what they thought were reasonable restrictions, mostly covering the first 6 months of GPS use. So, the City had to deal w/ that hurdle and did so righteously. Your question assumes common sense, and in dealing w/ public employees and bureaucracies, common sense is often a hindrance.

  10. Sounds like a good idea to me. raff’s right. city vehicles, city employees. At least the cops know ahead of time they’re being tracked.
    Some drivers along a busy North Fort Worth street on Friday were stopped at police roadblock and directed into a parking lot, where they were asked by federal contractors for samples of their breath, saliva and even blood.
    They were asking for cheek swabs,” she said. “They would give $10 for that. Also, if you let them take your blood, they would pay you $50 for that.”
    He also noted the fine print on a form given to drivers informs them their breath was tested by “passive alcohol sensor readings before the consent process has been completed.”

  11. bettykath,

    Thanks for the link/information.


    “Off-duty officials were helping with tests being conducted by the Maryland-based Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Turrentine said.

    “They want to find out of all the people surveyed, how many people were driving with alcohol in their system, or prescription drugs, things like that,” he said.

    The study is supported and partially funded by the Office of Drug Control Policy and is being conducted at 60 sites across the country, NHTSA spokesman Jose Ucles said.”

    30 cities (your posting), 60 sites.

    And maybe they’re collecting DNA samples, too? (I’d love to see the fine print.)

  12. To be honest nick, Unless the contract they signed with the city forbade the use of GPS, they city has the right to require it. A lot of private companies require it on company owned vehicles during company time, this should be no different.

  13. bettykath,
    I just may give them my blood for a quick $50.00! Can they give a cheek swab and blood and get two payments?? Of course, they will find a lot of legal drugs in my sample.

  14. Bettykath,

    Thank you…. I know right where that crap was going down….


    If I recall correctly sobriety road blocks in Texas are illegal…..

    I thank AP for following up with the other link….. Wow…l

  15. raff, Just as one example, earlier this year in nearby Lowell, Ma., the city spent 50k for GPS on cop cars and the local union blocked it. In many jurisdictions unions dictate virtually everything in the public sector. Slowly, the citizens who pay those salaries are taking back their government. I am heartened to see your stance on police unions, hopefully that will transfer to ALL intransigent public unions. What about school social workers who use a government vehicle to do home visits?

  16. lol Rick in Saltlake you beat me to it….. why would they be worried about being tracked if they’re not doing anything wrong? if they are really on their jobs and not laid up at a bf/gf homes..? if they arent out robbing, stealing and abusing?

    The way i see it.. the cops need these gps trackers now considering all the sites that are up about police abuse. what better way to be able to show the people they still are human and not hybrids for the elites

  17. The United States Postal Service will soon begin tracking employees with GPS tracking devices. Specifically, the mail carriers will be given smartphones, which can be tracked remotely. Currently, the USPS is using portable scanners to scan certain mailboxes throughout the day. This is how the mail carriers are currently being monitored, but there are big gaps of time in between scans. With the GPS-equipped cell phones, supervisors can monitor the carriers entire route. This way, they can detect if an employee is taking too much time or going off his or her route. The monitoring could also possibly help managers develop more efficient routes.

    …. Orwell was right.

    Things are much different than in 1978 when I started.
    BTW Folks, 35 1/2 years goes by fast, time to retire. This winter will find me looking out the window, sipping my coffee, ….and smiling.
    A warm smile. :o)

  18. nick,
    if an employee is using the vehicle for business and it is owned or leased by the business, they should not have a problem with the gps units in the car. If they are allowed to use it off the job, then the gps should be turned off during non business hours. Don’t misunderstand me, if the union can negotiate any term of employment they can also negotiate the gps units. Also, if it is good enough for the union rank and file, the supervisors cars should also be monitored in the same way.

  19. nick,

    Where do school social workers use government vehicles? I know it doesn’t happen around my neck of the woods. Even social workers who are employed by Massachusetts DCF use their own vehicles when making home visits.

  20. Hard to believe this is just starting in late 2013. How many fleets of private trucks, vans and cars used by business have GPS tracking and have had it for years?

    I think the next step is a surgical forehead cam for each officer that is implanted upon taking the oath, also with GPS.

  21. Elaine,

    Unfortunately there are a number of states that have a motor pool for the staff….. It’s cheaper than paying mileage…. Also, what lots of folks don’t realize that your private insurance carrier may not cover accidents that occur when used for official work business…. It gets really messy….

  22. Raff,

    Unless it’s a undercover operation…. I’m of the opinion that government vehicles should never be used for personal business…. Nor should they be allowed to take them home unless they spend more than a certain percentage of work in the field….. There are cases where Dallas police officers routinely took squad cars home…. If they have that many to spare…. Maybe they have too many on the tax payers dime….

  23. AY,

    Purchasing cars is cheaper than paying mileage? But wouldn’t the communities/states that purchase these vehicles also have to reimburse workers for mileage?

    Regarding insurance: That’s why I never drove my students on field trips.

  24. I’m sure if they are used in the regular course of work to and from a facility…. But, probably not as much… If they didn’t have state vehicles to drive…..

  25. Elaine,

    I once bought a fleet car from a dealership. It was a rejected interceptor from a town that administration had changed since the order….. I paid less than 10k on the list price….. So, I’m sure that the state when done right gets better deals than the average consumer….

  26. update on my previous ot
    Fort Worth police apologize for its role in federal survey

    Scott Gordon, NBC 5 News

    Some drivers in North Fort Worth on Friday were stopped at a police roadblock and directed into a parking lot where they were asked by federal contractors for samples of their breath, saliva and even blood. The request was part of a government research study aimed at determining the number of drunken or drug-impaired drivers.

    **UPDATE TO THE VIDEO ABOVE** Fort Worth police initially said they could not immediately find any record of their officers being involved in the roadblock, but on Tuesday police spokesman Sgt. Kelly Peel said that the department’s Traffic Division coordinated with the NHTSA on the use of off-duty officers after the agency asked for help with the survey.

    “We are reviewing the actions of all police personnel involved to ensure that FWPD policies and procedures were followed,” he said. “We apologize if any of our drivers and citizens were offended or inconvenienced by the NHTSA National Roadside Survey.”

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