NYPD spying is not quite as dystopian- and science fiction-seeming as a database of citizens’ eye pictures. A handful of people arrested recently in New York City, including a few Occupy Wall Street protesters, are complaining that cops are insisting that the accused allow the department to photograph their irises, despite the fact that the security measure is supposed to be voluntary. “[An officer] said: ‘It’s not really optional. It’ll take you longer to get out of here if you don’t do it,’” one protesters claims. The department’s spokesperson, Paul Browne, says unsurprisingly that he’s never heard of such a thing.
The iris pictures were enacted in 2010 in an effort to stop prisoners from escaping their arraignments, but some lawyers complain that the program was never officially announced or commented on, and that “eye data could place the innocent under a lasting cloud of suspicion.” Just recently, according to attorney-in-chief Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society, officers have slowed the arrest process for those not consenting to the iris portraits. A legal fight is likely brewing, but we also smell a downtown art project about civil liberties and state security.