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Orlando's city cameras catch man allegedly smoking pot

The no doubt extremely useful IRIS system catches a man allegedly smoking pot on the street and he is arrested. But how could the officers be sure it was pot?

WKMG-TV Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I had always thought that it was the Brits who most enjoyed using technology to spy on their citizens.

The country seems to have even more cameras than baked beans. But Britain has a cultural excuse. When you find it hard to express yourself, what else are you going to do other than spend your evenings watching others fail to express themselves too?

And yet it seems that the often overly expressive America is also into the spy-camera thing.

The city of Orlando, for example, employs IRIS cameras, which are ostensibly there to capture bad people doing bad things, or even good people doing bad things.

However, as WKMG-TV reports, the cameras have motivated their operators to eke out draconian justice.

Yes, they espied a man allegedly smoking pot. So, of course, they rushed two strong-armed officers to the scene in order to, perhaps, wonder how much he paid for it.

I may have that last part entirely wrong. For, indeed, Joe E. Haywood was arrested of possessing less than 20 grams of weed. He allegedly compounded his heinousness by swallowing the blunt as the police arrived.

Oh, yes, that's tampering. Or, perhaps, Tampa-ing.

The police reportedly tried to put pressure on his jaws in order to force him to open his mouth. Well, of course.

I do understand that some people have harsher attitudes towards drugs than do others. However, some might observe that living in Orlando offers, in itself, an unreasonable incentive to reach for a little soothing plant.

After all, when the city's main personalities are adults pretending to be mice, lions, princesses, mermaids and pigs, you might reasonably conclude that pot-smoking in Orlando is, in fact, compulsory.

The IRIS cameras -- IRIS is short for I Reefer In Secret, no, wait, it's Innovative Response to Improve Safety -- have been around for 4 years in Orlando.

But as WKMG-TV's legal analyst Amir Ladan pointed out: "I don't know that they can watch a video and then rush to a scene and try to make an arrest based on a video."

IRIS cameras do not, in fact, offer Smell-o-Vision. How was it that the police were so sure that Haywood -- who was accompanied by two men who were not arrested -- was smoking pot? This was an arrest not based on irrefutable evidence, but on an opinion formed through the lens of a remote camera.

One wonders just whose safety was improved by the police's innovative response. It may well be that the area of Orlando in which the incident took place is one where drugs are prevalent.

But if police were now able to watch video all day and decide, for example: "Oh, look. That man's wearing a hoodie. He must be up to no good," then surely we are entering an interesting phase of jurisprudence.

An imprudent phase, perhaps.