Selectboard Meeting Notes – Brattleboro Write-In Procedures Questioned; Body Cams Coming

The Brattleboro Selectboard began discussing a repeal of a 2011 Town Charter change to stop counting local write-in votes unless the write-in candidate had declared an intention to serve. 

The board heard a semi-annual update from the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance, approved of paving, police cars, body cameras for police officers, and disc golf improvements. Snow sports at Living Memorial Park will continue, we have a new road in town, and new members were appointed to committees.


Opening remarks included birthday greetings to Patrick Moreland, the Assistant Town Manager.

“He just showed us his AARP card,” said Kate O’Connor. “Next week he’ll bring his free tote bag.”

Brandie Starr and Police Chief Mike Fitzgerald noted the success of the community cookout to launch Project CARE.

Downtown Brattleboro Alliance Semi-Annual Update

Stephanie Bonin of the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance (DBA) came to the selectboard with financial statements and a slide show to update board members on the organization’s current affairs.

Bonin reminded the board of the pillars of being a downtown organization: organization, promotion, design, and economic development.

She said new staffing was paying off, which is giving them extra time to spend on social media. She also said in an effort to reach a wide audience, a community calendar had been shared. “Everyone is seeing the same calendar on multiple sites,” she said.

Parking has been a major focus, and Bonin said they created a super hero character called “Parking Hero” who saves people at meters by feeding the meters and paying for their parking.

She said she was pleased with the organization’s events and cooperative advertising among members. 

DBA has given some small grants to Echo restaurant, the Southern Vermont Career Center, and BrattRock. They’ve also given money for facade improvements for Malisun, Boomerang, Ruggles & Hunt, Yalla, Jasmine Bakery, and Cara Wolf Jewelry.

New programs and events are planned for the near future – a project called Brattleboro Live, a bike parking parklet, an outdoor tourism map, printed materials at the Welcome Center and an Ambassadors program.

“We have a need for more visitors to come to town,” Bonin said, adding that one question is “what is our town going to look like to attract people to come here?”

She said there was new energy coming to the board, and they were looking to add members.

“Fantastic,” said Brandie Starr. She said she appreciated everything being done.

David Schoales said that there was “constant buzz ongoing in town.”

Tim Wessel said he saw an uptick in diners during restaurant week, but also had a one little thing that was bothering him.

“The Parking Hero bugged me a bit,” he explained. “It’s a great concept, but it bugs me because I was addicted to comic books, and heros always have villains. In this case, the Town is the villain.”

“I didn’t think of that,” said Bonin. “We did meet with the Town before we did it.”

The real heros, said Wessel, are those who pay for parking and pay their fines if they get tickets. “I first wanted to create an anti-hero, but… it’s just one little thing that bugs me.”

Living Memorial Park Snow Sports Contract

Living Memorial Park Snow Sports has been given a five-year renewal of their contract to operate and maintain the ski tow and hill at the park.

Recreation & Parks Director Carol Lolatte said the organization has been doing this since 1994, and doing it well. They handle the day to day operations and the Town takes care of insurance.

A fantastic arrangement,” said Wessel.

Vermont Building Communities Grant – Disc Golf Improvements

Brattleboro’s Rotary Clubs are partnering with the Recreation & Parks department to apply for a grant. If approved by the Vermont Department of Buildings & Grounds, Brattleboro will receive $9,000 to help improve the disc golf facilities at Living Memorial Park.

Lolatte said the Town and the Rotarians successfully created a 13-hole course in 2016. Its low cost and high popularity led to the idea of expanding the course to a full 18 holes, and now all that remains is to purchase some tee pads, benches, shelter improvements and signs for a nature walk.

“I didn’t know we had one,” said Kate O’Connor.

“They have a tournament every year,” said Lolatte. “It’s a way to use the hill during summer months.”

“I loved the social media campaign,” said Starr. “Well done!”

“I haven’t been out there yet,” said Wessel. “It’s good to expand and upgrade.”

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved of the grant application. The grant requires a 1:1 match, which will come in the form of other grants.

Hinesburg Road Grants

The Brattleboro Selectboard accepted two grants for improvements to Hinesburg Road. The first is $78,400 from the Vermont Agency of Transportation to overlay new pavement on  Hinesburg Road. This requires a 20% local match ($15,680), which comes from capital funds.

The second was a $175,000 grant to pay for the hydraulic study, engineering, and replacement of a box culvert. This, too, requires a match but on 10% ($17,500), which will also come from already-budgeted capital funds.

2018 Capital Paving Project

What will $189,644.95 buy you? If you are the Brattleboro DPW, this amount covers the cost of summer paving for 2018.

Director of Public Works Steve Barrett said roads to be paved include Hinesburg Road, Green Meadow, Jenny Lane, Glen Street and Maple Street. “Those are the lucky recipients of the road paving,” he announced.

Mitchell Sand & Gravel of Winchester, NH will do the work.

Body Worn Cameras

Brattleboro Police were given the go-ahead by the selectboard to begin a five-year contract for body worn cameras (BWC). Officers engaged in law enforcement activities will be wearing them, and Axon, a company in Scottsdale, AZ, will supply and maintain them.

$39,801 is the price for the hardware.

Police Chief Mike Fitzgerald said they began looking at cameras in 2014, and camera programs have come a long way since then.

He told the board that having them will provide benefits. Cameras will increase transparency, improve police services, enhance community relations, improve evidence collection and prosecutions, and enhance officer performance improvement tools.

The department has been testing camera companies and products in July of 2017, taking a close look at durability, battery charging, chain of custody, video and audio quality, ease of use, and other criteria.

The products and service from Axon were deemed superior.

File storage will be supplied by Axon’s – a cloud storage system that is backed up to multiple off-site locations. It’s fully searchable, will auto-delete in accordance to police policies, has software to make “redactions” such as blurring a child’s face, and allows links to be shared by the department if they so choose.

The Police asked that an optional Technical Assurance Plan (TAP) is added in. This allows for product replacements, spare cameras, and free technical support.  The Chief liked these options to help keep the departmental budget steady and predictable, without worry of replacement costs, and also to keep current with the latest cameras.

The TAP comes at a cost of $24,395 over five years, bringing the total cost of the camera program to $64,196.

Brattleboro will have a total of twenty cameras, and will add more to be sure each officer has their own camera system. That way, explained Captain Mark Carignan, at the end of a shift, an officer can put their camera into a charger that also uploads and classifies all video from the day. This will save staff time of looking through multiple camera’s footage to find a particular item, he said.

The Chief said the cameras would be on when officers were taking law enforcement action. “If they are just walking around and talking,” he said,”no they won’t be on.”

He said they didn’t have an official policy for using them yet, but had many examples to draw from, and the Town Attorney would look over the final policy before it gets adopted.

“It makes sense to have the upgrades and service,” said Starr.

Wessel asked if officiers wanted the cameras, and about privacy concerns. “People might not want private situations to get out there.”

Chief Fitzgerald said that staff wanted the cameras, and were already used to cruiser cams. “It’s hard to argue when looking at something on the screen.”

He said he agreed about privacy. “That’s why the redaction program is so important, and consultation with the lawyer,” he said. “A domestic situation is personal, and we have to be aware of that.”

Police Cruiser and Command Vehicle Purchase

As called for in the FY19 Capital Budget, the Police Department can order some new vehicles. Specifically, they will be buying two police cruisers at $28,912 each, and one “major incident command vehicle” at a cost of $36,824. Formula Ford will supply them.

After buying the vehicles, they’ll need to be outfitted with the proper police equipment, lights, and painting to be a part of Brattleboro’s fleet. This will cost extra.

The cruisers will be 2019 Ford Explorer Interceptors with a 5 year/60,000 mile drivetrain warranty.

The command vehicle will be a 2019 Chevrolet Tahoe, with the same warranty as the cruisers.

Total cost for the vehicles is $94,684, but the actual price will be lower depending on the value fo three trade in vehicles.

Wessel noted that the command vehicle was an SUV. “For our winters? More practical?”

The Chief said yes, and that they offered more room for the in-car equipment. “It meets the need well.”

Name Private Road

Colonial Drive is the new name of the private drive that provides access from Putney Road to the Colonial Motel, wrapping back an behind the hotel rooms and ending near the pool area.

The name change request doesn’t come from anyone in Brattleboro. The Vermont E911 Board in Montpelier wanted it named — for safety. The Colonial Motel buildings will now be in compliance with E911 standards, and each business will now have its own unique address.

Enjoy your stay!

Election Write-In Procedures

“This is a Tim Wessel thing,” said Kate O’Connor, by way of introduction.

Wessel explained why the item was on the agenda.

He said that the Town Charter was changed in 2011 to require write-in candidates to declare their intention of being a candidate. “To me, it feels like the procedure goes against the spirit of write-ins, period.”

Wessel said the spirit of writing in should not be obstructed by this requirement.

“When it comes to absentee ballots and early voting, you don’t really know if your desired candidate will follow procedures, so you might vote for someone who isn’t ‘qualified’ on Election Day.” 

Wessel said it was an unnecessary restriction of democracy. “It seems like this is for convenience.” He called it an “odd restriction for a write-in,” adding that democracy was messy and there shouldn’t be any restriction.

Putting it into a broader context he said that nationally and internationally there are restrictions placed on voting. “I don’t like the optics of some rights possibly being infringed in our elections.” 

He asked for it to be repealed.

Town Manager Peter Elwell  said that to repeal it would require a change to the Town Charter, approved by Representative Town Meeting representatives, then state approval. “Would you like to starat down that road?”

Town Clerk Hilary Francis relied on an old memo from previous Town Clerk Annette Cappy giving justifications and reasoning for asking to limit write-in vote counting.

Francis explained that Cappy had said that most write-ins never win. There were additional problems, too. There were sometimes illegible or misspelled non-registered write-ins, and there might be a senior and junior of similar name in a single residence. “How will you know?”

Francis said a write-in candidate in first place but who didn’t want to be elected might prevent another write-in candidate in second place who wanted to be elected from being elected. She said the second place person should have been elected in that case. “It really helps identify voter intent.”

As for early voters not having their votes counted, “I vote on Election day. I want to know who write-ins are, so I choose to wait.” She said write-in candidates can declare their intention easily up until the very last minute. “Just voice your intent to run.”

She said the policy makes sense, it helps with voter intent, and helps get people elected.

Wessel said he didn’t want to argue each point, “but I have counterpoints to all of Annette’s points.” He said instead he’d return to the core argument, that in a voting booth, faced with a ballot with spaces for write-ins, “that’s an invitation to a possibility.”

He said Cappy argued that write-ins rarely win, “but that seems like you don’t have a right to vote for someone who might not win. Who’s to decide who is viable? For me, it feels like an intellectual violation of the idea of the write-in candidate.”

“They can still write-in,” said Francis, “but we don’t have to record or count Mickey Mouse.”

“But if it isn’t an official declared candidate, then their vote literally won’t count. That’s the essence of my issue,” said Wessel.

Brandie Starr said she agreed with Wessel, and invoked the spirit of Vermont town meeting day. “The spirit of democracy is important to me, and this feels restrictive.”

Wessel offered a compromise. “The posting of candidates with declared intent is a wonderful idea, and doesn’t need to go away. Just eliminate the other part. Why require it? You said national and state elections don’t have these requirements.”

“State and federal laws say we have to count write-ins, so we can only do this locally,” said Francis.

“Wessel said that generally elections run well, “but this is weird, and others don’t do it.” He said he would hate for it to become a statewide law.

Starr suggested it be taken out of Brattleboro’s Charter, then reinstated if and only if the state mandates it. “Why not be in line with the rest of the state?”

Wessel reminded everyone that the original vote in favor of the change was 55-33, at the end of a January special meeting. “I’d rather let Representative Town Meeting think this through again.”

“Are we the only town that does this?” asked Kate O’Connor.

Francis didn’t know.

The board then generally agreed to have Town Attorney Fisher look at putting it on the warning for next year’s Representative Town Meeting.

David Schoales suggested taking a poll on Facebook to see what representatives thought about the issue, but was quickly reminded that it would violate open meeting laws. He said he was generally against overruling representative’s previous decisions, and thought other issues were more important. “It’s a non-burning issue for me.” He said he’d prefer it come up as a petition.

Francis had the last word, answering why Brattleboro should do things differently than the rest of the state. “We tend to do things differently. We have Representative Town Meeting. There are lots of things we do differently because we’re Brattleboro.”

Status of Annual Selectboard Goals

Town Manager Elwell reviewed the status of selectboard goals after the first quarter, and in this case about a month and a half.

Not too much to report here. There was an under-attended HUB town meeting, so other meetings are planned. A Municipal Center plan is coming in August. Energy efficiency projects are moving along. Work on diversity and multiculturalism continue.

David Schoales noted that there was also progress being made on other major projects, outside of the goals of the board. He felt there was potential for overload, but Elwell assured him he’d speak up if things were getting out of hand.

Elwell said this and previous boards in Brattleboro have been much better than other government bodies he had worked with in terms of appreciating that potential for overload. “Don’t hold back.”

Committee Appointments

Before making appointments, board members joked that they might appoint a reporter departing from the room. And then they started the appointin’…

– Thomas Murray and Janet Cramer to the Brattleboro Housing Partnerships Board of Commissioners.

– Gary Stroud to the Cemetery Committee.

– David Whittle to the Development Review Board as an alternate.

– Oscar Heller to the Energy Committee.

– Richard Campbell to the Honor Roll. 

– Kathy Urffer to the Planning Commission.

Did Reformer reporter Chris Mays get appointed to be the new Weigher of Coal? I’m not telling.


Police responded to 7 overdoses, two resulting in death.

Police used a TASER and bean bag shotgun to subdue a possibly mentally ill suspect recently.

The new pumper rescue vehicle has arrived and equipment is being installed.

The fire department rescued someone at Commonwealth Dairy who had an arm trapped in a machine. It took almost an hour.

November elections will be held at the American Legion.

248 delinquent tax notices and 230 overdue utility payment notifications sent out in June.

Comments | 12

  • some commentary

    DBA says they spend lots of time on social media, then wonder why they don’t have enough locals and tourists in the real world to shop.

    Our long experience is that social media can help with promoting things, but it isn’t a substitute for doing the hard work of attracting and keeping customers. We see many businesses obsess over Facebook to the detriment of their own operations. Spending all of one’s time on international corporate platforms helps those big companies. You work for them for free, providing them with things that keep people on their sites.

    Followers and likes do not equal paying customers. And not everyone uses social media. Some people read the local paper or engage on a local web site. Ahem.


    Tim pointed out the logical flaw of the Parking Hero. I’ll add the logical flaw of the Golden Ticket promotion. Everything is right about this promotion except the prize. Charlie got a trip to a chocolate factory (and ended up winning it.) It’s a story for kids. The prize should be something kids could use or something they’d want. Parking, to me, is the wrong incentive. Get a good prize, in line with the story, and I’d buy a candy bar. Parking isa prize Slugworth would offer. : )

    I thought the Town Clerk gave especially poor justifications for not counting local write-ins. One one hand, the votes shouldn’t be counted because the candidates never win; on the other hand, they win so much that it causes confusion. Using some basic algebra, these arguments all cancel each other out. The only real reason to not count is to save an hour or two of recording the actual votes made by voters, and that’s not good enough. Neither is the “we do it differently because we’re Brattleboro” line. (Many think our RTM should also be repealed, and we should do as the rest of the state does.)

    There was also the faulty logic that the second place person, if the first place write-in declines the position, should be elected. That might not be so. Perhaps a write-in campaign was staged specifically to deny that #2 the job (ie, keep them from being #1), and the goal of the voters was to elected #1, let them decline, then gamble on an appointment instead. There are probably other scenarios, too. Our rules say if someone declines we have an appointment. (If that’s a problem, change it!)

    Tim’s right – if someone wants to vote for someone, they should have that right. Period.

    My voter intent is most clear when I can vote for whom I think would be best.

    Also, for Schoales – I think voting is at the core of all other issues. If we can’t trust our voting, and if our votes aren’t being counted, all else that follows is able to be questioned. All the other important issues are built on a flimsy foundation if elections aren’t democratic. I enter the recent Presidential election as evidence. : )

    • Your votes count if you can afford it

      I’ve now heard a rumor that our Town Clerk thinks that the idea of placing limitations on write-in votes is such a good idea that Brattleboro will be suggesting to the Secretary of State that the rest of the Vermont should also lose their ability to write in the person they want and have that vote counted no matter what.

      This charter change is a Brattleboro law due to a vote of just 55 town meeting representatives. This never had broad support and there were objections from day 1.

      Francis said she waits until Election day to vote so she can know who the write-ins are. Thats’ one of the major problems. Not everyone has that luxury (some can’t get to polls, some work, some are out of town) and those who cannot do as the Town Clerk does get penalized. They lose their vote. It isn’t counted. That’s nothing but awful.

      It should not be that you have to have enough time, money, and health to get to the polls to have your vote count. If that’s the case, we should stop early voting and mail-in ballots, since they do not allow for full voting, and force everyone who wants to vote to go to the polls on Election day. Will our Town Clerk argue for this option? Doubtful.

      Not counting votes, in Brattleboro, Vermont, in 2018, is absolutely terrible. It’s embarrassing. And that we especially disenfranchise people with mobility issues, or those who are poor and need to work on Election Day, is disgusting.

      I thought we were about compassion? I thought we were trying to make strides toward diversity?

      Not counting votes is lazy (it’s your job!) at best, and at worst it is anti-democratic. If it is true that Brattleboro is trying to spread this misfortune to other parts of the state, shame on us.

  • Body Worn Cameras

    In general body-cams seem like a good idea, for both the police and the public.
    However there are some questions it would be good to see answered. Will the privacy policy be publicly posted? How long will video be retained? Will face recognition be applied to the videos? Is audio also recorded? What will the procedure be for changing the privacy policy and who can change it? Who gets access to the video (can Axon make use of it? Will the FBI have access? Will ICE and CBP have access? How about the IRS?) How well does Axon protect the stored video? “at the end of a shift, an officer can put their camera into a charger that also uploads and classifies all video from the day”; what does that “classification” include? (Does it include facial recognition, GPS location, gait recognition, tattoo recognition, birthmark recognition, hair color detection, etc.? Will the video be used to track individuals across time? Will it be combined with data from external databases such as Lexus-Nexus, no-fly lists, and license plate reader data to do more extensive classification? What else might Axon add in the future?) Note that data from a body-cam could be used with machine learning algorithms to infer the mental state of the officer wearing the camera also (What was their muscle reaction time? Were they drunk? Were they angry? What was their heart rate? What was their breathing rate? Things like this are entirely possible today.) The privacy policy will probably need to be a living document that changes over time as the technology changes and as Axon adds new features.

    • Re: Body Worn Cameras

      Another big question will be, what is the policy for releasing video to the public? Is it all automatically released after 30 days? Is only video used in court released? Are faces blurred in released video? Will it include audio? Will it include video taken inside homes? Will the press have access to the video? I’m sure many of these questions will have been considered in the privacy policies being used as examples.

    • A technology committee is needed

      Great questions.

      The Selectboard has had a habit of approving technology before fully understanding it. These cameras have been approved for use by the board, and there is no policy for them in place yet. And the vast majority of these reasonable questions were not asked or answered. (I think the only one of these answered was that yes, faces can be “redacted” (blurred) before videos are released.)

      It might be smart to put a pause on using the cameras until the public weighs in on the policy for using them.

      Here’s something most people don’t know – Axon is the TASER company, rebranded. In this article, they say the low price cameras are the bait, then they make money of off storage of the videos. And some lawyers are having trouble getting access to discovery through Axon’s system.

      Videos are public records, but Axon is private. And Axon requires lawyers to sign license agreements before obtaining access. They have to agree to a bunch of things, including this:

      “”You consent to Axon’s access and use of the Account Content in order to….improve Axon’s Products and Services. In addition, for content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP Content”), you specifically give us the following permission: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, irrevocable, royalty-free, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use any IP Content that you post on or in connection with the Services (IP License).””

      Here’s the full story:

  • ownership of video and cost

    If Axon actually owns the video that may mean it is considered business records and can be subject to subpoena (e.g., for divorce proceedings of citizens and officers) and also searchable without a warrant by any law enforcement agency (including video of the interior of homes). While the ability to automatically process video to catalog content may be rudimentary now, it will very shortly be possible to automatically identify objects and context (i.e., “at 12:33pm there are 3 people in a room with two of them speaking loudly and one of them holding a baseball bat”):
    (do a search on Video Scene Detection And Classification for more examples)

    The town should do the math on the cost of video storage. Using the calculator on this page:

    30 days for 10 cameras (the other 10 are always recharging/uploading) used continuously 24/7 at 1080p video resolution at 30 frames per second, encoded in compressed H264 format would require 16,994 gigabytes of storage. The actual storage required would be much less since “the cameras would be on when officers were taking law enforcement action” so say 1 hour per day per camera is recorded, that would be 708GB per 30 days. Only recording video during enforcement actions means officers have to remember to turn the cameras on, which is easy to forget if a non-enforcement action suddenly turns into an enforcement action, so to truly benefit from the cameras they may need to be on all the time when an officer is on duty. Context can be important also, from before and after an enforcement action begins and ends. Being able to turn the camera off may limit the use of the video as evidence since the officer can then selectively record and anyone can claim anything happened before and after the recording.

    Maybe a way to proceed would be to start with a very conservative privacy policy that favors privacy and then narrowly and specifically amend it as needs and consequences become apparent. Consulting with the Town Attorney certainly seems like a good idea. Making the video Public Records has both good and bad aspects; it’s good that the public can review incidents, however even with blurred faces and no audio, privacy could be compromised (home entry and interiors will still be shown.) Public access also means the video can be data mined for purposes unrelated to law enforcement (e.g., compute the value of the home furnishings shown to estimate net worth for marketing purposes, after the home owner has been re-identified through correlation with video on their facebook page.) Some of these issues are difficult to control; for example, the use of 3rd party databases to re-identify people in video might be impossible to prevent. That’s why I would expect the rules and laws around body-cams to evolve over time.
    Will video recorded by and collected from the public be stored on Axon’s servers also? There’s nothing stopping citizens from wearing body-cams themselves and providing video to the police. Who owns that video? Is it treated any differently?

    • Some more on cameras

      These are the questions I’d expect answers for before deploying cameras.

      Perhaps the video is lower quality? Let’s see… 1080p (and 720 and 480)…

      Only works down to -4 degrees F. We would have had a few non-functional days last year, I’d guess.

      This camera is HD, and works to -4F.

      You can also hook your TASER to these cameras:

      “A TASER Smart Weapon can wirelessly report its status, such as being armed or a trigger pull, so your Axon cameras can sense specific events and begin recording during critical situations.”

  • triggered recording

    From the Flex-2 page:

    “Wireless Activation: Axon Signal reports events, like when you open the car door or activate the light bar, so your camera can detect them and start recording.”

    though that would surely involve some additional cost to wire a transmitter into the cars electrical system.

    • They are interested in facial recognition

      From a Washington Post article:

      “Axon, the maker of Taser electroshock weapons and the wearable body cameras now used by most major American city police departments, has voiced interest in pursuing face recognition for its body-worn cameras. The technology could allow officers to scan and recognize the faces of potentially everyone they see while on patrol. A growing number of surveillance firms and tech start-ups are racing to integrate face recognition and other AI capabilities into real-time video.”

      and there was a reaction:

      “a group of 42 civil rights, technology and privacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, sent members a letter voicing “serious concerns with the current direction of Axon’s product development.””


      “The letter urged an outright ban on face recognition, which it called “categorically unethical to deploy” because of the technology’s privacy implications, technical imperfections and potentially life-threatening biases.”

      Again, a tech committee could have flagged these fairly easy issues before the SB approved a contract. A tech committee is about 20 years overdue. But we cling to Coal Weighers instead… “come to Brattleboro, where we’ll consider the future – sometime in the future.” : )

    • Also

      Axon was giving the cameras away for free (waiving the cost entirely) to get folks hooked on their licensing fees. (Storage, it appears, isn’t the biggest cost).

  • bias in facial recognition

    There’s a lot of concern about bias in machine learning algorithms these days. If your facial recognition algorithm is trained on white middle class people then it does a poor job recognizing people with other types of faces, which can lead to the software never recognizing anyone not white, or always recognizing non-white people as the same few people in town, even if the actual person is from out of town. Beware of claims like “95% accurate”; it sounds good but that means that one out of 20 times it is wrong, which on a typical day walking on the street could be about every ten minutes! If all our faces go into a national database then there is a really good chance we’ll all turn up in lists of hits for some national searches in other parts of the country. The results from face recognition have to be treated as only one factor in identifying a person of interest. I’ve seen bias occur when a group of graduate students who are all Chinese train various learning algorithms on themselves. They get very good results until they try it with someone who is not Chinese or not a young grad student.

    Yes, the cameras are the cheapest part of the cost, the storage, networking, and software search capabilities will cost much, much more, especially if you want to do nationwide searches.

    It could also mean a lot more time spent handling queries from outside the area (e.g., every time a criminal has potentially driven up I91 from NYC, the NYC police may ask for local investigations of people whose faces came up in a list as matching to some degree.) Like with fingerprints, the output is probably a list of ranked matching faces, with some probability attached to each. Partially obscured faces or faces turned somewhat sideways may turn up a huge list of matching hits. This technology is nowhere near perfect. So some thought should go into when it makes sense to use it (maybe in comparing security camera footage from a robbery to bodyworn and other camera footage from nearby areas?)

    Will license plates also be extracted automatically from bodycam footage? I assume the camera records its GPS location (which means it tracks the officer); there was a conference presentation a few weeks ago where a researcher demonstrated how 5 popular bodycams can be hacked to tell when an officer is nearby:

    The researcher was also able to delete videos and upload new ones from a distance using about $100 worth of equipment (plus a laptop computer). The security of the cameras themselves appears to be terrible. Putting a camera on an officer could be like belling the cat. Proving the camera has not been tampered with currently appears to be impossible, which makes them somewhat questionable for gathering evidence. One of the cameras that was hacked was from Axon.

    • Hacked

      I saw the story on the hacking of body cameras, and yes – the security was terrible. If I remember correctly, the folks at Defcon said the cameras weren’t randomizing their wifi addresses, used predictable network addresses, didn’t use code-signing… and so on. Easy pickins for someone who likes to do that sort of thing.

      Axon did say they’d issue a patch of some sort… : )

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