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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Supervisor Avalos Teams Up with ACLU to Curb Police Surveillance

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge FRED NOLAND
  • Fred Noland
Supervisor John Avalos may be knee-deep in a fight for better cop surveillance in San Francisco — namely, body-worn cameras, so that cops can spy on themselves — but now he's also trying to curb the city's zeal for new eavesdropping technologies.

Throughout the country, law enforcement departments are using license plate readers, shot-spotters, drones, and data collection programs, both to detect neighborhood crime patterns and maintain a more granular level of scrutiny over the places they patrol. 

San Francisco, which has always conceived itself as a cradle of innovation, has been quick to embrace the latest-and-greatest devices. But Avalos and members of the American Civil Liberties Union caution that early, hasty, adoption doesn't serve the public interest.

“Communities are increasingly concerned about making sure that time, energy and resources are not spent on expensive, ineffective and overly intrusive surveillance systems that create more problems than they solve," Avalos said in a press statement issued today. He cited a new ACLU report that covered more than 150 cop surveillance innovations throughout the state, and found that only 23 of them got public input.

Now Avalos is stumping for a new ordinance that would require a "public process" every time the city's law enforcement departments want to deploy new technologies.

At this point, it's not exactly clear what that process entails. But it will probably throw grit in the gears of any new law enforcement innovation. After all, history has shown that the best way to thwart policy change, in San Francisco, is to hold a series of hearings or set up a community task force.

Avalos will hold a press conference with members of the ACLU at noon today on City Hall steps. 

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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