April 2018 Warning Bells article

April 2018 – What you need to know about Telematics

The first mention of Telematics being used in a personnel investigation has now crossed my desk, so I guess it is about time to ring a Warning Bell. Telematics is a device installed on your police car that captures informa­tion about the vehicle’s shop number, location, mechanical efficiency, vehi­cle performance and sensor data for such things as light usage, emergency equipment usage, seat belt usage, speed of travel and braking distance, that comes directly from the vehicle’s internal computer. That data is then transmitted over a cellular network, allowing for near real-time monitor­ing. In short, you are being watched, and notes are being taken.

Although useful information, like when to change the brake pads, and officer safety data, like your location in case you need help, are good things, the system can also be used to Big Brother you to death. Throw in the body-worn video, digital in-car video and thousands of citizen iPhones and security cameras out there-officers are probably the most monitored indi­viduals in the nation. That is why the League negotiated some protections into the Telematics orders, to which the Department reasonably agreed. Our primary concern was, of course, discipline based on Telematics data. The data is kept for at least a year. Were you speeding? Telematics knows not only your speed but the speed limit on the street that you were on. Hitting the hole? Telematics knows how long your engine was idling. Did you leave the division? Telematics knows your exact location over your whole watch. Is your log accurate? Telematics knows where you were and how long you were there. In pursuit? Telematics knows when your lights and siren came on and when they were turned off. Not wearing your seat belt? Telematics knows when it was buckled and when it was unbuckled.

In addition, Telematics can be a tattle­tale worse than your little brother. It is possible to program the system to recognize “trigger events” and to send a message to the watch commander. “Officer X has driven 25 miles per hour over the speed limit at 1512 hours on the 300 block of Figueroa Avenue.” Better have a good reason, and Telematics knows that your lights and siren were not on! You need to practice being perfect.

Perfection being rare below the rank of captain, the League tried to build in some rules to help you out. The first rule was that, for short of deliberate acts of misconduct, you have 60 days to get used to this new system. You are supposed to be trained on the capabil­ities of the system when it goes active. After the 60 days, you are on your own, but the Department should not be using a wrecking ball to kill an ant. This language was negotiated: “Once the transition period has passed, action taken by commanding officers as a result of audits, inspections, or compli­ance reviews of Telematics data should include positive reinforcement when behavior is consistent with Department policy and procedure, and training, counseling, an Employee Comment Sheet or a Notice to Correct Deficien­cies for deviations prior to initiating personnel complaints.”

Probably the most serious problem is the danger that your reports or testi­mony is contradicted by the Telematics data. When that happens, plaintiff’s attorneys, criminal defense attorneys and the Department have the option of calling you a liar, with all of the nega­tive things that follow that accusation. The League has negotiated your right to review the data prior to writing a report or submitting to an interview. Do it! It won’t be long before the attor­neys know where to drop a subpoena to get the data, and your reports, logs and statements need to be accurate.

The Department has approved the following language in the Telematics order. “When considering whether allegations of false and/or misleading statements are appropriate in any case involving Telematics data, the Depart­ment will consider the materiality of the discrepancy and factors that are reason­ably likely to affect the officer’s memory including the stress caused by the inci­dent, the time elapsed between the incident and the interview, and fatigue. Note: It is not the intent of the Depart­ment to initiate complaints or frame additional allegations of false and/or misleading statements for discrepan­cies between an officer’s memory of an incident and what is on Telematics data unless there is a material discrepancy.” This is encouraging language similar to the language in the body-worn video orders.

Be aware that audits will be con­ducted. Of special interest to the auditors are speed, location and the wearing of seat belts. However, the fol­lowing language was negotiated, “Point of Emphasis: Other conduct discovered in Telematics data connected with an audit, inspection, compliance review, personnel complaint, use of force inves­tigation or pursuit investigation should not become the sole basis for framing additional allegations of minor miscon­duct. Framing additional allegations is appropriate when the actions of the employee could be considered serious misconduct.” Therefore, investigations should not turn into wide-ranging audits of all of your conduct during an incident. The investigation should focus on the allegations.

Finally, Telematics may actually work to your benefit. The order says “Demonstrably False Allegations: Con­sistent with Department policy, all allegations of misconduct initiated by a member of the public must be recorded on a Complaint Form, Form 1.28. However, when Telematics data clearly proves that an allegation of misconduct is Demonstrably False as defined in the Department Manual, the allegation should be classified as Non-Disci­plinary-Demonstrably False. Under those circumstances, accused and wit­ness officers need not be interviewed regarding the Demonstrably False allegation(s).” Technology can be helpful. Telematics is like any tool in our belt. If properly used, it can make the Department and officers more effi­cient at providing the citizens of Los Angeles with the protections that they need. But if you use a hammer, not to pound nails, but to bang fingers, the value of it as a tool is lost. Telematics is the same as the hammer. May it be properly used.

Be legally careful out there.

Comments are closed.