As LAPD Chief Bill Bratton prepares to saddle up and ride into the sunset, Angelenos are already arguing over one part of the legacy he's leaving behind. According to a report by China's Xinhua news agency, the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union is warning that the department's iWatch program, which is designed to heighten alertness to potential terrorists, is a throwback to the paranoid months following the 9/11 attacks. The program, which Bratton recently unveiled for national use, calls on citizens to phone in information to a special hotline if they notice individuals engaged in suspicious activities — such a making drawings or measurements of buildings, or wearing oversized clothes in hot weather.
“iWatch actively encourages people to report a variety of ordinary activities,” ACLU staff attorney Peter Bibring was quoted by Xinhua, “such as people wearing clothes that are too big, or who are drawing buildings, or who are doing something else that could be innocuous. That could lead to racial and religious profiling.”
Chief Bratton has dismissed such fears about the program, calling it a “Neighborhood Watch of the 21st century.” A few days ago he told NPR's Neal Conan, “I can appreciate what the ACLU is trying to say in this case. But if we're to follow that logic to its conclusion, then we would say to the American public, never report anything because it might be perceived as a bias, it might be perceived as a prejudice.”