LEXINGTON, Ky. — Accusations that a Lexington Police Department officer stalked and spied on a woman underscore the need for oversight and transparency for all government surveillance technologies and programs.
The woman filed a petition for an emergency protection order against Sgt. Jervis Middleton earlier this month, saying that she fears for her safety due to his “stalking behavior.” The woman claims Middleton drove by her house multiple times, stole and accessed her cell phone, and showed up unexpectedly in places where she’s been. She also said Middleton “has known things about me that could have only been overheard.”
We See You Watching Lexington director Mike Maharrey issued the following statement:
“This is precisely why we shouldn’t automatically and unquestioningly trust government agencies to own and operate surveillance technology in complete secrecy. Just because somebody wears a uniform and a badge doesn’t make them trustworthy. Obviously, you can’t stop bad apples from abusing their power, but it’s a lot easier for bad apples to operate when there is no oversight or transparency.
“We have no idea whether or not Middleton used the police department’s super-secret surveillance cameras to spy on this woman. I certainly hope that he didn’t. But when I read that he knew things ‘that could have only been overheard,’ I have to wonder. It wouldn’t be the first time a police officer has used department resources to spy on somebody for their own personal reasons.
“I’d like the think the LPD has policies in place that would keep a random officer from accessing and using intrusive surveillance equipment, but we don’t know because that information is secret. In fact, the city of Lexington sued me to keep information about its surveillance technology secret. Given this situation, maybe secrecy isn’t such a good idea.
“Middleton is just one individual officer and it wouldn’t be fair to paint the whole department in a bad light because of his actions. But this situation demonstrates just how quickly the combination of surveillance and authority can go south.”