San Diego

San Diego surveillance ordinance aims to strike balance between public safety and personal privacy

The San Diego Police Officers Association has issues over how the work required underneath the brand new ordinance shall be achieved by subsequent September.

SAN DIEGO — When the town of San Diego put in greater than 3,000 “smart street lights” again in 2016, geared up with cameras capturing video in real-time, their unique objective was far completely different than what it will definitely grew to become, main to a contentious battle between public safety and civil liberties.

“We are installing thousands of smart streetlights throughout the entire city,” stated former Mayor Kevin Faulconer as he unveiled the $30 million Smart Streetlight program six years in the past. At that time, it was meant to monitor site visitors patterns.

“It is going to make parking, traffic, and city infrastructure smarter,” he promised.

While this technology was in the end by no means used for that, San Diego Police discovered a brand new objective.

“They’ve been incredibly valuable for the police department,” stated Sgt. Jared Wilson, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association (POA).  He stated the surveillance video captured by these streetlights has proved essential in fixing a number of violent crimes, together with the lethal taking pictures at a Church’s Chicken in 2019.

“Smart street lights solved that case,” he added. 

While this technology has been a useful useful resource for police, it has additionally blindsided many group members.

“All of this technology was rolled out, and community members had no idea about it,” stated Genevieve Jones-Wright, a former public defender and the founding father of TRUST San Diego (Transparent and Responsible Use of Surveillance Technology), a non-profit shaped in response to this lack of discover.

San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Monica Montgomery-Steppe agrees.

“The issue was that there was no transparency and accountability up front when that purchase was made,” stated Montgomery-Steppe. While she did not sit on the council when the clever road lights have been bought, she stated she understands why so many San Diegans have been alarmed to study them.

“We have a history in this nation where we surveil low-income communities more than other communities, so there is always a heightened concern when you hear about cameras in streetlights that you had no idea about,” she instructed CBS 8. 

“There were absolutely no rules in place,” added Jones-Wright. “There was no oversight, no accountability.”

In response to these issues, the town determined in 2020 to minimize direct entry to the video being captured by these streetlights, offering time to work on sweeping new laws to oversee all surveillance applied sciences utilized by all metropolis departments, together with the police. Those new guidelines have been handed by City Council in August.

“We have a process set so that we balance people’s privacy rights with what we are doing, acquiring as a city,” Montgomery-Steppe stated.

Under this course of, which TRUST SD helped create, police and different departments should now doc and report all surveillance technology they use and maintain in-person conferences with the communities the place they’re going to be used.

Also, a particular nine-person volunteer Privacy Advisory Board, appointed by the mayor and authorised by the town council, will embrace group members and specialists in legislation, civil rights, and high-tech safety. Its position shall be to vet these surveillance instruments.

“Ask the tough questions,” Jones-Wright stated. “Make the recommendations to the city council.”

It will then be up to the town council to log out on the particular instruments being adopted. 

Montgomery-Steppe stated that she acknowledges using technology as an investigative instrument.

“We don’t necessarily want to prohibit that,” she stated. “We want to ensure that we know what we are getting into.” 

“We are not opposed to oversight and how they’re used,” Wilson of the San Diego POA stated. “We do not want to become a surveillance state or anything like that.”

However, the San Diego Police Officers Association has issues over how this work required underneath the surveillance ordinance, which should be accomplished within the subsequent ten months, shall be accomplished in time.

“The surveillance ordinance is highly problematic because it adds massive bureaucracy to what we do,” Wilson instructed CBS 8. 

Wilson stated that hundreds of hours shall be wanted to meet the brand new legislation’s necessities, calling it an “unfunded mandate.”

“We are going to be taking officers off the street to get this done: there is no extra funding for it, no extra positions,” he added. “Public safety will suffer as a result of this.”

Privacy advocates, although, dismiss these issues as ‘overblown.’

“I honestly don’t think it’s going to be a burden on their resources at all,” Jones-Wright stated. “And I think they should welcome being at community meetings and participating. This is what democracy is all about.”

The Police Officers Association stated that entry to these applied sciences, from body-worn cameras to high-tech forensic instruments, is vital to combating crime.

“We can’t afford to have those technologies turned off in many cases,” Wilson stated. 

“If there are issues, my door is open,” Montgomery-Steppe responded, including that the town and police want to work collectively as the method strikes ahead.

“But the community deserves transparency, and I think this is the least we can ask,” she instructed CBS 8.

One notable exception underneath this new city-wide surveillance ordinance: cops engaged on federal job forces are exempt from oversight.

City departments have till September 10 of subsequent year to undergo the method to achieve council approval for the surveillance instruments they’re at the moment utilizing.

WATCH RELATED: Man convicted in deadly Otay Mesa Church’s Chicken taking pictures sentenced to 146 years to life (2021)

Back to top button