Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Written testimony against expanding local PD wiretap authority

Read written testimony your correspondent submitted on his own behalf to the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee asking them to reject HB 530 by Fletcher and its senate companion SB 188 by Huffman expanding the authority of the largest police departments to perform wiretapping without Department of Public Safety oversight. Right now when local PDs want to use wiretaps they must get DPS to perform the actual interception or else partner with the feds. Grits readers have seen much of the detail before but I didn't want the bill to make it through committee and to the floor without somebody at least registering opposition. Here are the main points from the written testimony:
  • Wiretaps are seldom requested by local PDs
  • Agencies saying they want them rarely ask
  • Texas maintains greater accountability by keeping invasive surveillance technology at one agency
  • There's no harm in the feds doing most of the wiretapping
  • Don't expand authority before updating laws to account for 21st century technology
As I told Rep. Allen Fletcher and his chief of staff yesterday when I stopped by their office to give them a copy of the testimony before the hearing, I've been opposing this bill since it was John Whitmire and Debbie Riddle carrying it, and possibly before then. So just as there's no pressing need for this bill, with so few agencies requesting wiretaps each year, there's also no rush. If the committee shoots it down, it'll be back again next session.

MORE: From the Dallas Observer's Unfair Park blog.

See past Grits posts related to the bill:


Anonymous said...

I can see how this will go. First the big departments will get it, then the little ones will want it too. Next thing you know you've got Bubba the small town police chief wiretapping the guy that's running against his buddy for mayor. A few years ago in Whitehouse, I think it was the fire marshal that illegally ran a TCIC check on the guy running against the incumbent mayor. Best to leave the wiretapping to the big boys.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the sheriff's departments will want it too. Can't deny the chief law enforcement officer in the county what everyone else has.