Monday, July 26, 2010

Official Voyeurism: Open record exemptions leave only voluntary disclosure of camera abuses

A Dallas area TV station last week reported:
A Dallas County Sheriff's Lieutenant is out of a job after the department says he used jail cameras to watch female inmates in the shower.

Lt. Steven Gentry, an 18-year veteran of the department, violated departmental policy, according to Sheriff's spokesman Kim Leach.

An internal affairs investigation found his conduct unbecoming.

Gentry was fired Monday.

Back in May, he was an instructor for a class called "Ethics in a Correctional Setting" at the sheriff's training academy.
The ubiquity of modern surveillance apparatus raise this question wherever anyone might get undressed, be it the changing room at the mall or the local swimming pool, but particularly in correctional environments. As Grits lamented recently, the Legislature after 9/11 eliminated all requirements for transparency and open records regarding all types of government camera surveillance, completely deregulating camera use and leaving the details to individual state and local agencies. In the case of the Dallas jail, at least there are apparently policies in place forbidding misuse of cameras, and some willingness by the Sheriff to enforce them. That's not universally true, though, and thanks to a near-complete exemption under the Public Information Act, there's no way (besides this kind of laudable self-disclosure) for the public to investigate when or how government surveillance cameras are abused. Sheriff Valdez deserves credit, to be sure, but especially because if she'd decided to cover up the incident, there's no way anyone would ever know.


Anonymous said...

Crooks make the best cops, right?


BlackFlame said...

What walking vermin! What really sickens me is the type of officers we are hiring. I don't know if psychological assessment is part of the hiring process, but it should be considered. Now, if there is psychological testing, the test battery should be changed. This officer needs to be crucified on an inverted cross.

Hook Em Horns said...

Perverts in law enforcement and corrections. Let's face it...Texas used to hire anyone to work in it's prisons which is the reason, at least in part, so much contraband gets in. In TYC, it seems the guards cannot keep there pants zipped or there hands off the children.

We have stories of police burtality in Houston (caught on a video surveillance system) and in Indianapolis where cops beat a handcuffed, laying on the ground, teen suspect. There are other stories out of Indiana, in particular one where a cop faked or did not do testing on suspected drug caches forcing prosecutors to dismiss 30-40 dope cases in one county and in another town a cop is accused of planting evidence and was fired.

Now, we have a case in Dallas of a perverted cop. I agree with BlackFlame's questioning of the psychological assessment being part of the hiring process for cops. If it's not, it should be. It seems to me that we are hearing more and more about trashy, no account, crooked cops than we used to. Either we have an epidemic of trash in police work OR law enforcement agencies were better at hiding there garbage then they are today.

Hook Em Horns said...

Before counsel for the cops and the FOP come on here to bash my comments, let me say we are talking about the TRASH that exists in law enforcement NOT the thousands of cops who go to work everyday and do outstanding work. There is a HUGE difference!