Sometime ago, I wrote an article about public records on this blog. I wanted to take this opportunity to further discuss some records or data maintained by law enforcement agencies and other employers. I would also invite any readers to add any other sources of data or information which I leave out in the comments section.
Let’s start with the fact that there is no expectation of privacy afforded to employees while using any departmental equipment or property. While this statement applies to physical properties such as lockers and desks, I plan on focusing on electronic data. For example, many employees are issued departmental cell phones. These cell phones are maintained and paid for by the police department. They also communicate through the city’s servers every time you engage in some type of transaction. The city of New Orleans is currently using BlackBerry. The BlackBerry communicates through the BlackBerry enterprise server which is located in City Hall. The BlackBerry enterprise server then communicates with whoever you were attempting to communicate with. So, phone calls, text messages, BlackBerry Messenger messages, and emails, are all directed through the BlackBerry enterprise server prior to transmission to other destinations. This data is maintained by the city of New Orleans and can be retrieved at their desire for whatever reason.
Similarly, departmental emails are also logged and recorded on the city’s servers. You have no right to an expectation of privacy in any communication made through your city email account. Your city email account should be used for no other purposes than official communications. Nobody likes having multiple email accounts, but under these circumstances it is certainly best to have a Gmail or Yahoo account (or other email service) for your own personal use.
In fact, there is some case law to suggest that your department could potentially be able to order you to surrender certain records from your own personal cell phone and or email account if the communication can be shown to be directly related to your employment. It is better to be safe than sorry with records never go away.
You should assume that all computer activity is logged. For example, officers of the NOPD are required to read daily training bulletins. The department has easy access to information about reading these daily training bulletins. It is a simple computer inquiry to determine whether or not an officer has read the daily training bulletins they were supposed to read.
MOTION inquiries are also logged. MDT to MDT transmissions are logged. Your network logins are logged. Every time you key up your radio, your identity, time, date, and length of communication are logged, even if you are on a radio talk group that is not recorded. There are many radio talk groups which are recorded, even if they are not being used as a dispatch channel.
Obviously, FIC cards are logged. Radio transmissions are logged by dispatchers. Your car’s location is logged. In car cameras are constantly recording and log every button push. The EPR system logs every event. Your access to the subpoena system is logged. Every time you use the NFC chip in your access card to unlock a door, it is logged.
This is just an illustrative list of things that are recorded or logged. If anyone has anything to add to this list, or would like to expound on something I included, feel free to do so in the comments. Also, I have used the NOPD for my examples. However, this is probably true for whatever department you work for. If you work for another department, feel free to add any specifics for your department in the comments.
It is a fact of modern life that the addition of many electronic conveniences has been detrimental to our privacy. Be smart. Assume that everything you do with departmental equipment or computers is logged and tracked. If you say you read the daily training bulletin, make sure you have actually read the daily training bulletin. They can and do check that type of information. Keep your private life private.