Florida Police Chief Lied About Amazon Spying

Orlando Police Chief John Mina lied to several news outlets about the extent of OPD’s partnership with Amazon’s facial Rekognition software.

By Jacob Engels

John Mina has some ‘splainin’ to do. In a series of interviews in the past 48 hours, the Orlando Police Chief and candidate for Orange County Sheriff, flat-out lied to reporters inquiring about the extent of OPD’s use of Amazon’s facial Rekognition software.

First, he claimed that the technology was only being used within the OPD headquarters. According to the Orlando Sentinel, he also claimed that the identities of seven OPD officers who agreed to be tracked with the software were the only ones uploaded to the system.

To make matters worse, Mina also peddled information that he knew to be untrue to Orlando’s self-appointed moral arbiter, Scott Maxwell, the Orlando Sentinel’s leading opinion columnist. However, it was later revealed that the Amazon’s Rekognition technology was installed and in use on three surveillance cameras in Downtown Orlando.

This means that Mina lied about the full extent of OPD’s partnership with Amazon, the exact number of cameras using the software, and whether or not the technology was being used in public places.

In response, Mr. Mina has adopted the tired and frightening line of jackbooted law enforcement leaders who claim they would never use spying devices or high-grade military equipment against the people they are charged with protecting.

That is of course until they do. We’ve seen it on the national level after September 11th, where law enforcement and intelligence agencies were given unfettered access to our lives. No legitimate oversight, no warrants necessary, and funded by your tax dollars. Just last week, it was revealed that the US intelligence agencies funded a spying program on the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

The ACLU says that law enforcement agencies could use the Rekognition technology to “easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone.” While they claim it would likely spell bad news for immigrants, left-wing activists, and people of color… that is narrow-minded.

Since the election of Donald Trump, government agencies and tech companies like Amazon have worked hand-in-hand to censor conservative political thought and alternative media almost exclusively.

For those evaluating Mina’s candidacy for Orange County Sheriff, how can you trust him in that role in light of these recent revelations? OPD has also come under fire for a record number of police brutality complaints and failing to equip patrol officers with bodycams.

His campaign website claims that Mina is “Tested. Trusted. Ready.” Really?

He couldn’t be trusted to tell the truth about Amazon having access to three spy cameras on the streets of Orlando, cameras that were equipped with the technology by his office. When he was “tested” on this issue, he reflected that he was not ready or completely ignorant of what is going on within his department. That alone proves he is not ready to assume control of a much larger agency like the Orange County.

Amazon even shares access with OPD to the feeds and recordings gathered by the surveillance cameras placed in Downtown Orlando. What are they allowed to do with this content? Why weren’t residents made aware? How accurate is this software?

Mina claims it could help law enforcement catch criminals in real-time, but how can we be sure his office or Amazon isn’t using this software for mass collection? Are his officers that bad at good ole fashion police work?

What if the software identifies someone who looks similar to a person of interest or wanted criminal? Would that individual be detained under false pretenses and what happens if they resist an arrest for a charge they know to be bogus and unlawful?

Will Mr. Mina address these concerns, lie to us again, or just ignore us?

The government has already proven that they cannot be trusted with power like this. Citizens should have a say in matters like this and John Mina should have known better.

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” -Benjamin Franklin.


Jacob Engels is an Orlando based journalist whose work has been featured and republished in news outlets around the globe including Politico, InfoWars, MSNBC, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Mail UK, Associated Press, People Magazine, ABC, Fox News, and Australia’s New Dawn Magazine. Mr. Engels focuses on stories that other news outlets neglect or willingly hide to curry favor among the political and business special interests in the state of Florida.