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Fort Worth Police Department Cellphone Tracking to Create Probable Cause? Cops Promise They Won’t Do It, Many are Skeptical

Police departments are supposed to get search warrants, and therefore a judge’s review and approval of their actions, before they start tracking the actions of a citizen in this country. (For details, read our website resource article on search and seizure.) However, technology has advanced to the point where it is darn easy to track someone via their cellphone, and now a Texas Police Department has purchased a cellphone tracking system.

It seems the Fort Worth Police Department bought a KingFish System awhile back, which is a cellphone tracking system that you can tote around. They spent around $184,000 for the thing.

With this gizmo, Fort Worth cops can take this KingFish to wherever they want and use it to monitor folk without their knowledge. Key: they can do this without the inconvenience of that judge and his review of things before someone’s privacy is invaded. Judges can be so picky, after all.

Paranoia? Nope. The suggestion is that the Fort Worth cops intend on doing exact that — track you or your kid or your friend with their KingFish System without anyone’s knowledge or approval comes from a City of Fort Worth Internal Memo itself.

Read the language of that memorandum and it sure sounds like Fort Worth police are planning on circumventing the search warrant (which is a constitutionally protected requirement) as they track people via their cellphones:

The police department will use the KingFish System, a portable cellphone tracking system, to assist in locating, identifying, developing probable cause and apprehending priority offenders….

Probable Cause Comes First, Not As an Afterthought

Here’s the thing: that language about the police using this gizmo in “… developing probable cause….” is scary, scary stuff. Big Brother kind of scary stuff.

Legally, we are all protected under state and federal law from the police power being exercised as it wishes. Police must act within specifically defined boundaries, and respect our freedom.

That’s why judges okay the police tracking an individual’s actions in a search warrant: the police are already supposed to have “probable cause” that evildoing is going on in order to support their request to step over that legally protected privacy right of the targeted person.

Many Are Questioning What the Fort Worth Police Department is Doing with Their Cellphone Tracking System

Already, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Texas is checking out what is going on here.  Expect them to file a lawsuit if need be.

News media are investigating the situation, as well.  It’s a big deal when law enforcement decides to dance around probable cause, after all.  Bloggers are watching, too.  Like us.  Like Grits for Breakfast.

Meanwhile, individuals should be wary if they are being investigated or are arrested in the Fort Worth area:  have they been a victim of the KingFish version of “probable cause”?

It’s a valid question for everyone in Fort Worth with a cellphone to ask.  Problem is: how would you know, until the cops had built their sandcastle of a case around you?  If you are reading this in the Fort Worth area,  via your cellphone  — does the Fort Worth Police Department know where you are, what you’re doing? How would you know?


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