Reg­u­la­tion sought for po­lice sur­veil­lance

11 U.S. cities con­sider leg­is­la­tion to re­quire greater trans­parency

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND | NATION - By Jes­sica An­der­son jkan­der­son@balt­ twit­­ders5

Law­mak­ers in New York, Wash­ing­ton and nine other U.S. cities are plan­ning leg­is­la­tion that would re­quire more trans­parency around po­lice sur­veil­lance tech­nolo­gies, the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union said Wed­nes­day.

The law­mak­ers want to re­quire po­lice agen­cies to dis­close in­for­ma­tion about how they use sur­veil­lance tech­nolo­gies and how much they cost. The ef­fort, co­or­di­nated by the ACLU, the Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion and other ad­vo­cacy groups, comes af­ter po­lice in cities in­clud­ing Bal­ti­more be­gan us­ing such pro­grams with­out in­form­ing the pub­lic.

“Our big­gest goal is to cre­ate a vig­or­ous de­bate,” ACLU ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor An­thony D. Romero told re­porters in a con­fer­ence call Wed­nes­day. He said the scale of such pro­grams and the lack of trans­parency is trou­bling.

Where data has been made avail­able, the ACLU said, it has shown that com­mu­ni­ties of color and low-in­come ar­eas are mon­i­tored dis­pro­por­tion­ately.

Romero said the first 11 cities con­sid­er­ing such leg­is­la­tion — in­clud­ing Seat­tle; Mil­wau­kee; Rich­mond, Va.; Madi­son, Wis.; Mi­ami Beach and Pen­sacola, Fla.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Hat­ties­burg, Miss.; and Muskegon, Mich. — rep­re­sent a be­gin­ning. He hopes that more ju­ris­dic­tions will adopt sim­i­lar mea­sures.

The ad­vo­cacy groups out­lined sev­eral guide­lines for cities con­sid­er­ing such leg­is­la­tion. They said sur­veil­lance tech­nolo­gies should not be funded with­out City Coun­cil ap­proval, that lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties “should play a sig­nif­i­cant and mean­ing­ful role” in de­ter­min­ing fund­ing and im­ple­men­ta­tion, that data should be re­ported to the pub­lic an­nu­ally, and that tech­nolo­gies al­ready in use should still be open for re­view by the pub­lic.

Po­lice in Bal­ti­more op­er­ated an aerial sur­veil­lance pro­gram for months, un­known to the pub­lic or top city of­fi­cials, be­fore it was re­ported by me­dia out­lets in Au­gust. Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis has said that the pro­gram was in a trial stage and that the depart­ment would in­clude in­put from the pub­lic in any de­ci­sion to con­tinue it.

The ACLUof Mary­land has said it plans to pro­pose leg­is­la­tion to the Bal­ti­more City Coun­cil that would pre­vent the depart­ment from ac­quir­ing new sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy with­out pub­lic dis­cus­sion. Del. Curt An­der­son is look­ing to pro­pose reg­u­la­tions in the next Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion.

New York City Coun­cil­man Daniel Gar­o­d­nick said po­lice should be able to use sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy, but he’s help­ing to craft leg­is­la­tion that will give le­git­i­macy to depart­ments un­der in­creas­ing scru­tiny.


A de­tail of the wide-area sur­veil­lance cam­era im­agery shows Dou­glass High School and the Mon­dawmin Mall park­ing lot.

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