Metro

Boston Police Commissioner Evans defends cell trackers

Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe

William B. Evans spoke at a press conference in 2015.

Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans on Wednesday defended the department’s use of cellphone trackers and said law enforcement agencies should be able to break into suspects’ phones if needed.

Evans’s remarks came in an interview on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio show after a story in the Globe by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

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The story said Boston police keep the public largely in the dark about the use of the covert trackers, and have an agreement with the FBI to not disclose how the trackers are used.

Evans explained that the trackers would be used only in emergencies — to quickly locate a dangerous suspect on the loose, for example.

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“It’s technology that in an emergency situation will allow us to . . . get us close and get someone who’s an absolute threat to public safety,” Evans said.

In those cases, police would have access to other civilians’ locations through their phones, but those “mean absolutely nothing to us,” Evans said, and the suspect’s location would be the only one of importance.

“There’s no sinister plan here,” he said. “Everyone thinks we’re snooping, digging into their lives. . . .
This is about public safety.”

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Evans also discussed the case in which the FBI wants Apple to unlock a cellphone in the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack investigation.

Though he did not explicitly say he sided with the FBI, Evans said, “If someone kills someone, I think there should be an exception that lets us look at the victim’s and the killer’s last conversations.”

J.D. Capelouto can be reached at jd.capelouto- @globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jdcapelouto.
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