Police improving privacy at intelligence center


by JESSICA HOLLOWAY / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY


Posted on March 5, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 5 at 7:24 PM

AUSTIN -- With thousands of eyes watching your every move, city leaders are working to protect your privacy. The Austin Public Safety Commission asked for an update from Austin police on the Austin Regional Intelligence Center.

The center gathers information and shares it among 10 different law enforcement agencies. For example, if an officer were looking for a serial robber who has hit several cities, he might call the ARIC.

"We are not an investigating entity. We add value to the investigations that are going on within APD and other departments in the region," said Lt. Joseph Chacon from the Austin Police Department.

The Public Safety Commission wants more oversight over ARIC.

"Have complaints been made? Are people concerned about people's information?" asked Ramey Ko.

Austin Police Assistant Chief David Carter addressed concerns Monday night after an activist accused ARIC of violating policy when an undercover Austin police officer infiltrated the Occupy movement during a protest in Houston.

"This was chilling free speech, this was not done in compliance with our policy," said activist Debbie Russell.

"These officers created the idea and supplied the materials to get these folks arrested and charged with a felony. That's called entrapment," said an Occupy protester.

"Accusations were made that we violated that privacy policy and I can tell you that did not happen," said Lt. Joseph Chacon.

Chief Carter says the investigation into whether the officers committed any wrong-doing is still ongoing but says that's a separate issue unrelated to the intelligence center.

"There were no ARIC officers involved in those activities other than to receive information," said Carter.

In fact, Carter says Austin police has improved privacy by limiting how long information is kept on file. Also, each year an outside intelligence center will audit ARIC and members will receive improved training.