In Orlando, Florida, an Innovative Response to Improve Safety, or an IRIS Camera, stopped a crime in progress. This was also the first time that this camera system was used to intervene during the middle of the criminal activity. What crime? Was it Murder, rape, maybe terrorism, no it was someone thought to be smoking pot. The police officer viewing the activity assumed Joe Haywood and two other individuals were smoking Marijuana and dispatched an officer right away to stop the illegal activity. When a patrol car arrived on scene, the man with the alleged marijuana swallowed the substance. The officer then said he saw a marijuana leaf stuck on Haywood’s teeth. Haywood was arrested and the others were let go. He has retained an attorney and plans on suing the police department.
Haywood’s attorney rightly points out that the arrest is unconstitutional because it was not based on any original evidence. Just because the officer thinks they were smoking marijuana on some camera only makes it his opinion. Officers arrested Haywood because he had substance on him, albeit in his stomach, and maybe in his teeth. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has ruled in Rochin v. California that evidence purged from the system is inadmissible.
Similar camera systems are being installed across the country. Most of the time cities are given federal funds to install them. This type of surveillance is becoming the norm. Cameras can be viewed by all levels of law enforcement anywhere in the country. While some people may enjoy the assumed security the cameras provide, do we want to move in the direction of 1984 and Big Brother? Phillip K.Dick’s, Minority Report, may become a reality in some distant future. Luckily, legal cases like Mr. Haywood’s will test the legality of this technology and hopefully prevent Big Brother from literally being one of many eyes in the sky.