back to article Baltimore cops accused of violating FCC rules with Stingrays

Three civil rights groups have filed a complaint with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the use of Stingray devices by the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). The filing [PDF] accuses police investigators of operating without a license and interfering with the cellular network, both while unfairly targeting …

  1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Without a license

    Interesting angle because I believe one is required to have a license for a transmitter operating in the cell phone bands. The license will be for a specific frequency/band so the regular PD radio license would not cover this.

    1. cd

      Re: Without a license

      They evade that by keeping the whole enterprise sub-rosa. To the point where a defense attorney bringing it up can get a case dismissed so they don't have to reveal details during discovery. So not only is it illegal to use for at least two reasons, usage --however peripheral to the case-- can actually sunder a righteous bust.

      When something this idiotic comes up, the best explanation is that someone's profiting. So add yet another illegality.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Without a license

        > To the point where a defense attorney bringing it up can get a case dismissed so they don't have to reveal details during discovery

        Which makes one wonder why this isn't being done routinely by defence lawyers for _everything_

  2. Gray
    Holmes

    Sincere promise ...

    The officer monitoring the StingRay intercepts has been instructed to dispatch an ambulance if he/she should overhear a caller attempting to report an emergency ... unless, of course, it's to a black ghetto neighborhood where it would be unsafe to dispatch an ambulance crew.

    Our local police: going the extra mile to serve and protect.

  3. dan1980

    When will politicians muster the political will to acknowledge that the police - as a body - cannot be trusted to, well, police itself?

    The constant refrain of it being only a tiny minority doing the wrong thing vs the overwhelming majority being unimpeachable is wearing thin.

    As civilians, we* are constantly inconvenienced on a state-wide or nation-wide basis as blanket laws and restrictions are imposed upon us in order to deal with a similarly tiny minority of people doing the 'wrong thing'. The police call for - indeed campaign for - these blunt instruments to be employed against the people but are incensed that the people could ever want to enforce restrictions on them to help prevent the abuses and outright crimes within their ranks.

    * - I am Australian and we have much the same problem of double-standards here, as I am sure is the case in many other countries.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      When will politicians muster the political will to acknowledge that the police - as a body - cannot be trusted to, well, police itself?

      They can't. Politicians are literally extorted and threatened by the police the same as the rest of us. So are cops who "snitch" on other cops. The U.S. police are literally the top gang.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not snitching on other cops..

        How is this different from IT projects that we know are doomed and we stay quiet, knowing that the price of speaking up is dismissal?

        We can move onto other companies. The police officers like all civil servants, have a single employer. An employer that they would have to sell their house to move to escape...

        Don't be too judgemental.

    2. Youngone Silver badge

      I am a Kiwi, and we do things on a smaller scale than you Aussies, so not quite as bad as the Queensland or NSW Police corruption, but we do have the added problem of a supine news media, who rely so much on the Police for access for their crime reporting that they refuse to report anything negative until they're absolutely forced into it.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        > so not quite as bad as the Queensland or NSW Police corruption

        That's what you think. I had relatives in the ASIO who claimed differently in the early 1980s and it was rather informative that the central people in most of the corruption scandals that rocked Australia during the 1980s were either NZers or had extensive NZ connections.

        I suggest you acquaint yourself with LaudaFinem, e2nz and other commentators - via a proxy, or you'll receive a knock on your door.

        One very telling part about corruption in New Zealand is that if the defendant is a "famous sportsman", he can expect all details to be suppressed and a superinjunction issued - even if convicted - in order that it doesn't affect his/her ability to travel outside the country. This does get reported and the NZ public doesn't even blink at the NZ courts colluding to allow people to make false declarations to foreign immigration departments.

        1. Kernel

          Not quite all

          "This does get reported and the NZ public doesn't even blink at the NZ courts colluding to allow people to make false declarations to foreign immigration departments."

          Not all NZers are happy with this - it is the reason why my wife and I do not support any NZ national sports teams - we do not consider a number of their members, potential members and ex-members to be suitable role models for our grandchildren nor do we consider them to be suitable representatives of our country and it's social values.

          Not that this makes any difference to them, of course, but at least we know we are not buying into the whole 'sports heros can do no wrong' crap.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When will politicians muster the political will to acknowledge that the police - as a body - cannot be trusted to, well, police itself?

      The constant refrain of it being only a tiny minority doing the wrong thing vs the overwhelming majority being unimpeachable is wearing thin.

      I'm going to paraphrase a 2013 statement of Jean-Paul Juncker here: "Politicians know very well what needs to be done. They just don't know how to get re-elected after doing it."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "...only a tiny minority doing the wrong thing..."

        ~95% of police are good people doing a difficult job. Only a tiny minority would knowingly violate citizens' rights, break the rules, or trash basic ethics in any way.

        Except...

        ~100% of police will actively or passively participate in cover-ups when those minority do evil things. Even if false charges are piled on an innocent party. No limits to what will be done to protect their brother officers. They really have no other option.

        Fact. Sad fact.

        1. dan1980

          Re: "...only a tiny minority doing the wrong thing..."

          To the two ACs above.

          Re: not snitching on other cops..

          How is this different from IT projects that we know are doomed and we stay quiet, knowing that the price of speaking up is dismissal?

          Well, while similar in basic concept - not 'rocking the boat' - the two situations are vastly different in all the ways that really matter. Taking them at their best, a politician is someone who actively asks to be allowed to represent the people and to make decisions on their behalf and for their welfare. They compete with each other for the privilege of exercising power on behalf of the citizenry and that power comes with the responsibility to use it in the best interests of those who gave it to you.

          Job security should come a long way back on the list of priorities, with speaking up for the people right up the top. These people were elected to be OUR voice so being afraid to speak up when it matters means they have failed the most important part of their job as a representative of the people: representing the people.

          "~95% of police are good people doing a difficult job. . . . ~100% of police will actively or passively participate in cover-ups when those minority do evil things.

          First, the same responsibility that politicians do (or should) have applies equally, if not more so, to the police. They too have been given the privilege of exercising powers over their fellow citizens and that power is, in some ways, even more of a privilege that that which we bestow upon politicians. Consequently, so to is the responsibility greater.

          Yes, being a police officer is a tough job and I am frequently concerned for two of my friends who are police officers. But that does not - in any measure - allow them a free pass when it comes to reporting bad behaviour in their own ranks.

          A police officer who keeps quiet about a fellow officer's (or general police) misdeeds or, worse, actively covers it up, is, by definition, part of the problem.

          But, setting that aside, the power that the police wield means that even if only a tiny percent do 'the wrong thing', the consequences can be immense. People can have their lives ruined - even taken from them - by only a single act of police impropriety.

          Take this example from the US that shocked me more than it probably should have: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-interrogate2-2008jul02-story.html

          A 16 year old girl murdered because a cop told a gang member that she had ratted him out. A police officer lied to a suspect to attempt to force a confession and a 16 year old girl died for it.

          Of course, that's not quite the same as using a fake cell tower to capture data but the point is that the powers that police wield carry enormous responsibility precisely because they are so dangerous if misused.

  4. Adam 1

    naïve me

    And here I was imagining these devices basically did a MitM attack, forwarding the traffic to a legitimate tower so as not to inconvenience anyone beyond the privacy implications.

  5. Potemkine Silver badge

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Police everywhere = justice nowhere.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Baltimore Police just literally got away with murdering Freddie Gray, so I doubt they'll be too worried about illegally operating a cell phone tower / stingray.

    Seems to me that they are a criminal enterprise that needs to be disbanded and reformed from the ground up with properly trained and supervised professional police.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Worth a try. Nothing like using technicalities to fight institutions... or crooks you cant't touch otherwise.

      1. ShadowDragon8685

        Well, that's how they did Scarface Capone. I doubt the FCC is gonna find the balls to do sommat about this, though. They can't even muster the testicular/ovarian fortitude required to execute their remit to regulate communications on private enterprise these days; the Republithugs have, through budgetary cuts, rendered them pretty much unable to go after anyone with Lawyers, much like the IRS.

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