It was a bold and, some critics say, invasive move.
The L.A. County Sheriff's Department spied on the residents of Compton by flying a plane over the 10-square-mile city for six hours a day for nine days, videotaping everything on the ground.
But cops say they couldn't pick out faces or even types of cars due to the video's resolution. And so, as a way to calm the nerves of the good people of Compton, sheriff's officials have declared the technology unsuitable. For now:
The experiment, revealed recently by the Center for Investigative Reporting, was undertaken to determine if Persistent Surveillance's Hawkeye system was right for the department, deputies said.
Compton was chosen for the test run because images could easily be transmitted from a manned surveillance plane to the centrally located at the sheriff's station there, according to a statement. The spying took place from Jan. 9 to Jan. 17 of 2012, officials said.
So why weren't the citizens of Compton told about it? Sgt. Doug Iketani told CIR:
A lot of people do have a problem with the eye in the sky, the Big Brother, so in order to mitigate any of those kinds of complaints, we basically kept it pretty hush-hush.
It's not hush-hush anymore.
The department last night stated that because officials believed the resolution from the high-flying cameras wasn't good enough to help it do its job, namely catch criminals, the experiment was nixed after being evaluated:
Sheriff's Aero Bureau and Compton Sheriff's personnel identified a number of challenges that rendered the system ineffective for the Department's need to enhance public safety and impact criminal activity. The factors included the resolution of the video footage captured did not offer any detail which would allow the identification of any individual. The detail provided would not allow the reviewer of the footage to discern gender, age, race, hair color or any other identifiable features. Another factor was that it was difficult to identify the difference between a sub-compact vehicle and a full sized sports utility vehicle. Another decision not to pursue the use of the system was the fact that the footage could only be captured in black and white.
The footage was not kept, officials said.
Still, you just know cops can't wait until this technology is ready for prime time. Be prepared, people. We have an umbrella picked out already.