01 September 2013

Policing, Parody and Productivity

There are some law enforcement ideas that are just so wrong it is hard for a legal analyst to know where to start in critiquing the nonsense.

The SMH reports - accurately or otherwise - on a proposal by controversial Liberal Party candidate Ray King for what the Herald characterises as "a radical new policing system in which criminal suspects would be injected with satellite-trackable microchips shot from a ''high powered sniper rifle''".

The supposed rationale for that stroke of genius is improving the "productivity" of the NSW Police Force.

King reportedly outlined his ideas in a 12 page paper 'Microchipping of human subjects as a productivity enhancement and as a strategic management direction of NSW Police' for a NSW  police leadership conference last year. Sadly, the paper doesn't appear to be publicly available but would appear to be a hoot and - if not meant to be tongue in cheek - poses some questions about the mindset of senior NSW Police officers.

The SMH quotes King as stating that -
 What has limited our effectiveness for decades has been the restriction on how police obtain information and having to prove before courts that we have acquired our information by legitimate means. What I propose and will endeavour to convince the reader of, is the implementation of microchip technology similar to that used in controlling the activity of domestic animals, will quantifiably enhance the success of law enforcement.
and that
I'm an advocate for this type of technology. I think we need to explore the use of microchips to help put criminals behind bars.
King is reported to have identified a Danish company - Empire North - as having patented the ''ID Sniper Rifle'' as the ''long-distance injector'' of the microchip. The SMH cruelly suggests that the company in fact does not exist, with the implication being that the ID sniper rifle  to be wielded by NSW cops is merely a feature of a Danish sci-fi docu-drama titled Empire North.

A superficial search of the net - and even of Wikipedia - would have revealed that the patented and trademarked rifle is a hoax, albeit one that's been embraced by the technologically illiterate and paranoid.

One fan site burbles
What is the ID SNIPER rifle?
It is used to implant a GPS-microchip in the body of a human being, using a high powered sniper rifle as the long distance injector. The microchip will enter the body and stay there, causing no internal damage, and only a very small amount of physical pain to the target. It will feel like a mosquito-bite lasting a fraction of a second. At the same time a digital camcorder with a zoom-lens fitted within the scope will take a high-resolution picture of the target. This picture will be stored on a memory card for later image-analysis.
Why use the ID SNIPER rifle?
As the urban battlefield grows more complex and intense, new ways of managing and controlling crowds are needed. The attention of the media changes the rules of the game. Sometimes it is difficult to engage the enemy in the streets without causing damage to the all important image of the state. Instead EMPIRE NORTH suggests to mark and identify a suspicious subject on a safe distance, enabling the national law enforcement agency to keep track on the target through a satellite in the weeks to come.
Let's unpack this. A chip that when shot from "long distance injector" (ie a rifle) causes the same sensation as a mosquito bite, presumably so little distress that the recipient isn't alerted and thus doesn't reach for tweezers, scissors, scalpel, pocket knife or other tool for removing the bug? It's a magic chip, apparently, one that doesn't bounce off the individual's skin or collar or cuffs. (Presumably we are not relying on productivity-obsessed NSW police officers hiding in the bushes near swimming pools with blowpipes or lurking in bathrooms for that moment when the suspect momentarily exposes their buttocks as a target for insertion of the chip.) A magic chip, indeed, that can apparently be tracked directly by satellite, in disregard of the physics for most RFIDs.

Given Mr King's reported enthusiasm for the magic chip I wonder why we need to rely on sniper rifles. Why not slip the chip into the baddies' milkshakes and hamburgers and muesli and pizza? Why not chip everyone, just like cats and dogs?

Apart from the zany misunderstanding of the technology, King's apparent misunderstanding of the law is either amusing or worrying. It is unclear who he regards as a suspect and whether his vision of improved "productivity" would be underpinned with special legislation. Would it be an offence to take your tweezers and remove the chip once you realised that you'd been stung by the NSW Police rather than a bee or mosquito? Would you have a claim when the chip - oops - was injected into an ear or ear and caused damage there or migrated to your heart or brain? You are, after all, a suspect rather than a convicted person and Australian law has not embraced the notion that either suspects or convicted people can be legitimately turned into pincushions by police with sniper rifles. Would the NSW Police pay for surgical removal of the chip once you were no longer a suspect?

The reporting is one of the more entertaining features of the election, along with the candidacy of a religious figure who appears to have claimed to brought three people back from the dead through healing powers. An earlier figure more modestly confined himself to resurrection of only one man, by the name of Lazarus (John 11: 13-44). It is impressive that in our age of "productivity" a pastor can bring the dead back to life on several occasions, although thousands of grieving parents, partners and children might ask why he is being selective and not resurrecting their loved ones.