Protests Be Damned, Tennessee To Approve A State Police Highway Surveillance Program

Protests Be Damned, Tennessee To Approve A State Police Highway Surveillance Program


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This story proves just how little police care about protests taking place across the country.

What started out as the "Electronic Monitoring Indigency Fund" (EMIF) or "DUI Monitoring Fund" has been transformed into a Kafkaesque, Tennessee state police highway surveillance program.

Originally the EMIF provided financial reimbursement to installers to cover the costs by indigent participants required by a judge to have an electronic monitoring device installed in a vehicle.

"The EMIF provides reimbursement to individuals or entities engaged in the business of manufacturing, selling, leasing, servicing or monitoring alcohol or drug monitoring devices (“Provider”). All Providers submitting interlock claims for reimbursement must be listed on the Department of Safety’s approved Provider list."

So basically, the state is paying local governments 50% to encourage them to install alcohol monitoring devices in people's vehicles.

"The implementation of the local government matching grant program will require local governments that wish to utilize electronic monitoring devices other than ignition interlock devices to opt-in and cover 50% of claim expenses. This new process for payments will apply to any new claims submitted as a result of a court order issued on or after July 1, 2019."

Providing financial incentives to put corporate monitoring devices in people's cars is horrible but things are about to get a whole lot worse for Tennesseans.

If incentivizing installing monitoring devices in people's cars is not enough to turn your stomach, I give you the latest version of Tennessee's House Bill 2110 or EMIF.

The latest version of EMIF has been transformed into an exclusive state police highway surveillance program.

"No surveillance cameras shall be permitted on federal interstate highways except for Smart Way cameras, other intelligent transportation system cameras, or, when employees of the department or construction workers are present, surveillance cameras used to enforce or monitor traffic violations within work zones designated by the department of transportation; provided, that the cameras are operated only by a state entity."

This bill would transform the State Police into an exclusive taxpayer funded surveillance entity.

A February 2020 amendment to the bill claims state police can only use Smart Way cameras to enforce or monitor traffic violations within work zones.

"No unmanned traffic enforcement cameras shall be permitted on federal interstate highways except for Smart Way cameras, other intelligent transportation system cameras or, when employees of the Department of Safety or construction workers are present, unmanned traffic enforcement cameras used to enforce or monitor traffic violations within work zones designated by the Department of Transportation, provided, that the cameras shall be operated only by a state entity."

But they conveniently left in an escape clause, "it is assumed that the current Smart Way and intelligent transportation system cameras will be utilized to aid in criminal investigations."

As the Tennessee Star revealed, the EMIF bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee to be reviewed yesterday which does not mean it will not be passed in its current form.

Rep. Andy Holt has major concerns that state police highway surveillance cameras would be used to spy on everyone.

"However, the idea of surveillance cameras being utilized throughout the state bothered some lawmakers, including Rep. Andy Holt, who said the legislation reminded him of the dystopian novel, 1984, in which the government closely monitors its citizens to keep control of them."

Holt cautioned these cameras could be used in the future for purposes the legislation does not intend.

“I will not be a party to unnecessary surveillance to the people of Tennessee, the people of the United States,” Holt said. “… Please let’s not tread down this path

On the positive side, at least politicians are giving the appearance that they care about mass surveillance. On the negative side, one has to ask, how did a bill meant to reimburse local governments for installing DUI monitoring devices become so perverted?

Turning the state police into highway surveillance agents sends the wrong message to Americans. 

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