Cameras Everywhere

One of my favorite web comics is XKCD. It’s highly intelligent, quite nerdy, and published regularly. If you’re not already a reader, and have a background in mathematics, this needs to be a regular stop on your travels through the web. (And if you need help deciphering it, like I do sometimes, check out this great ExplainXKCD site.)

The image above is taken from here on XKCD. The idea behind the comic is that many of the world’s mysteries are being solved, proven or disproven because evidence-making machines, specifically cell phone cameras, are nearly ubiquitous today.

What does that mean for your agency? Well, quite simply there are cameras trained on your folks all the time. Right now, even.

Our first reaction is that this is a bad thing. But is it? Not always, and maybe never. According to the NY Times, it’s been a boon for one California community:

The Rialto study began in February 2012 and will run until this July. The results from the first 12 months are striking. Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24.

Our friends on fire scenes are seeing the same thing. Chief Boyd describes a fictional scene where images are transmitted online at the same time that a chief on-scene seems them:

Now fully engaged in unfolding events I can’t quite picture the exact location of this particular complex. So, I pull up aerial photos allowing me to see all four sides. Wait….. I can see a fire wall extending up through the roof near the address apartment. That’s good. Looking for more real time intel, I pull up the Washington State Department of Transportation camera network and quickly spot a camera pointed in the general direction of the “C” side of the apartment complex.

We will be on camera all of the time, from here on out. Those fictions that we were worried about? We can now get proof that they never happened. Those mistakes that we make will be broadcast for all of the world to see. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It just is. How we react will make all of the difference.

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Profile Photo Joe Flood

It’s not just that there are cameras everywhere these days – the cameras are social and in real-time. So if you see something cool/horrifying/interesting you share it immediately with your network. Within seconds, an image can be distributed around the world. Agencies must be ready to respond to photos “blowing up” on the Internet.

Your fire example isn’t fictional! My apartment building caught on fire and I found out about it on Twitter. I saw a tweet from a local news channel with a photo. Fortunately, my place was fine.