Buffalo Police Defend Usage of Cell Phone Data Device

BUFFALO, NY - We're hearing from Buffalo Police about their plan to purchase technology that can extract information from cell phones.

Police say the device helps them solve crimes, but, a powerful civil liberties organization has some concerns with police using the technology, which is called UFED.

And for the past six years, police have had a similar version of the device that can take data from cell phones and retrieve information that's been deleted. The device can't be used to spy on people. Instead, the phone needs to be hooked up to the device for it to work.

Police say the UFED is regularly used during homicide investigations -- when a search warrant has been granted and only officers who are trained can use it.

John Curr III of the New York Civil Liberties Union has some concerns with police having the device.

"What certainties do we have that if problems and process and the way information was being retained we discovered that they be acted and not just shuffled away," Curr said.

There's only one of these data devices and it's at police headquarters. The department wants Common Council approval to purchase a newer version of the device. Police say if the purchase is approved, an audit will be done on who uses the device and what numbers are searched.

"We would have a paper trail which we will log in who uses the what device they're having examined and then the machine itself would have an inner capability to have a username, password protected," said Chief Dennis Richards of Buffalo Police.

A police captain would do the audit.

"That's somewhat troubling to learn that the police are auditing themselves I supposed we'd feel just as comfortable if the IRS allowed us to audit on one another as well," Curr said.

REPORTER: I think the obvious question and follow up to that is whether it's a good thing for the police department to do its own investigation and auditing rather than having an outside agency look at that?

RICHARDS: "I think you're dealing with very sensitive information and very sensitive cases and therefore, I don't think we would entertain getting some outside individual come in and audit on who's being looked at."

Earlier this week, the Common Council finance committee approved the purchase of the newer version of the device. The Common Council is expected to approve the purchase next week.

Police will probably get the new version in the fall.


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