FF12: Kechi officer stalking incident prompts concerns about WPD ‘FLOCK‘ technology

FF12: Kechi officer stalking incident prompts concerns about WPD “FLOCK” technology
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 10:43 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - After a Kechi Police lieutenant was arrested for using the Wichita Police Department’s (WPD) FLOCK license plate reader system to track his estranged wife, FactFinder 12 wanted to know who has access to the system.

Technically, a citizen is monitored by the system any time they drive by a FLOCK camera. The cameras are supposed to help law enforcement officers find criminals, recover stolen property or find missing or endangered people.

If someone has their vehicle stolen and reports it to the police, if the vehicle passes a FLOCK camera, it will then alert officers to the last known location. The system will continue tracking the vehicle as it passes other FLOCK cameras. But, that means other people who are driving at the same time as the stolen vehicle, will be captured on the cameras too.

WPD said the video is stored for 30 days and should only be viewed for investigative purposes. Investigators say, the Kechi police lieutenant, had no legal reason to track where his estranged wife was driving.

“I received a phone call from another officer concerned that there was a misuse of the FLOCK system,” said WPD FLOCK administrator, Lieutenant Casey Slaughter. “I looked up the network audit because there’s an audit trail that’s kept with FLOCK on every single keystroke of everything that’s looked up on the system. I found that, sure enough, the individual who worked for the Kechi Police Department looked up some things that he shouldn’t have been looking up.”

Slaughter said WPD officers can only use the FLOCK system to aid in investigations, but that’s only WPD policy. There are no state laws regarding the FLOCK system in the state of Kansas. Max Kautsch, President of the Kansas Coalition for Open Government said there should be laws preventing officers from using the system for personal reasons.

“What’s really disappointing is that all the other states that have these laws, built in these kinds of limits but Kansas didn’t. Now we’re seeing what happens. So, license readers, it’s a technology we can go back and forth about the privacy versus the law enforcement benefit of that particular technology,” said Kautsch. “The fact that the statute that authorizes its use in Kansas is not consistent with the other statutes in this country, there’s more possibility for abuse and we’re seeing that here.”

FactFinder 12 asked WPD after the incident, what changes could be made in the policy to ensure officers can’t use the system for personal use.

“We go through annual provisions for policies, there are things that we can always do to try to make things better. If there’s any silver lining in this entire thing, it’s that it shows everybody in our department and outside, this is what will happen if you misuse this FLOCK system,” said Slaughter. “You’re going to get caught, you’re probably going to go to jail, you may lose your job and probably should in my opinion. This is a powerful system, in the words of the Spiderman movie, with great power comes great responsibility.”

Slaughter said he is willing to help craft laws to prevent misuse of the FLOCK system.