Community Control Over Police Surveillance

What is Community Control Over Police Surveillance? 

ACLU’s Community Control Over Police Surveillance framework, allows for the use of surveillance technologies, but only after a rigorous, transparent, public review that would enable the public to ask questions about and reject surveillance uses that place vulnerable communities at even greater risk. 

Background on Community Control Over Police Surveillance 

The proliferation in local police departments’ use of surveillance technology, which in most places has occurred without any community input or control, presents significant threats to civil rights and civil liberties that disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income communities. Our “Community Control Over Police Surveillance” effort is looking to change that through legislation mandating that local communities are given a meaningful opportunity to review and participate in all decisions about if and how surveillance technologies are acquired and used locally. Here is a list of costly and invasive surveillance technologies that might be recording you, your family, and your neighbors right now.  

Police departments around the country buy surveillance equipment through private-public partnerships and federal grants with little to no oversight. Nationally, over $1 billion (about $3 per person in the US) of these grants are funneled to municipalities across the country, bypassing local budget processes and local elected officials. 

A Community Control Over Police Surveillance proposal would require city entities to come up with a plan for how they will use surveillance technology, commit that plan to paper, hold public meetings to hear community concerns, and submit the plan to the city council, or similar body, for approval. The plan submitted must include what technologies are being sought, how they will be used, if their use could adversely impact marginalized groups and policies regarding data storage and security. A “city entity” includes any agency, department, bureau, division, board, commission, committee, or unit of the city or any governmental unit operating within the city.  

Ask your city council/board of alderman to consider a Community Control Over Police Surveillance proposal.

Guiding Principles:

  1. Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired, or used without express city Council approval. 
  2. Local communities should play a significant and meaningful role in determining if and how surveillance technologies are funded, acquired, or used. 
  3. The use of surveillance technologies should not be approved generally; approvals, if provided, should be for specific technologies and specific, limited uses. 
  4. Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired, or used without addressing their potential impact on civil rights and civil liberties. 
  5. Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired, or used without considering their financial impact. 
  6. To verify legal compliance, surveillance technology use and deployment data should be reported publicly on an annual basis. 
  7. City council approval should be required for all surveillance technologies and uses; there should be no “grandfathering” for technologies currently in use. 

Surveillance Increases Disparities Among Our Communities  

Following numerous in-depth examinations of police data, the ACLU and our partner organizations have discovered that, when mass surveillance systems are deployed by local police, they are frequently used to target communities of color. This disparate impact is reason to provide oversight so that technologies are used appropriately. 

Proposals Do Not Prevent Surveillance Use 

Community Control Over Policie Surveillance does not prevent a city from using surveillance technology. This bill creates a process for approving or denying the use of surveillance technology that is transparent and open to public input. It seeks to build public trust by seeking community consent rather than allowing the use of surveillance technology to bloom without oversight. By creating transparency, we can protect civil liberties and promote public safety.