El Cerrito PD Unveils Drone Policy, Pushing Back on a Surveillance Ordinance

On October 22nd the El Cerrito Police Department held a public forum on the use of drones by the police department. Sadly it was poorly attended by the public, perhaps because it was advertised as a discussion on Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) operations. Regardless we do appreciate Chief Keith having the public forum because there is nothing to require him to do so.

The police department talked about why they might use drones such as searching for missing persons, photography for crime scene investigations, and pursuit of a suspect for a violent crime to name a few. We had a good discussion on the current language in the policy about using drones for incidents of civil unrest and how that may be defined. The Chief agreed to look for a more specific definition of what he meant by that.  

Chief Paul Keith Introducing Drone policy to a small gathering of community members on Oct. 22nd, 2019

The difference that stood out is that the Police Department wants to have these guidelines be departmental policy rather than an enforceable ordinance. What this means is 

  1. A departmental policy can be changed at any time for any reason without public notice
  2. If there are violations of the policy the department handles them as a human resource issue.

What El Cerrito Progressives and some local civil liberties organizations such as ACLU and Oakland Privacy are asking for is an ordinance. What this provides is

  1. Annual reporting of the use of the devices to council
  2. Council approval with public input of any new devices
  3. Civil remedies if the policy is violated. The civil remedy is what is called a cure and correct which means the city would be notified that they were in violation and asked to fix the problem. If they did not fix the problem it would then go to a judge. This allows for accountability outside of the system.

Essentially what the ordinance does is ask for transparency and accountability in a formalized manner. The issue of trust came up a lot in the meeting. The Police Department feels like the public does and should trust them to do the right thing. What the privacy advocates said is that there can easily be incidents of abuse no matter how well the intentions of the department. Public accountability deters abuse. Right now the policy when amended may be reasonable and something most people can support. That being said, if a staff change occurs or there is a new surveillance item the city wants they can get it with no transparency or public accountability. Right now we have to trust they will do the right thing. 

Sadly as an institution, police departments have not always been shown to be trustworthy. Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley police departments all have had significant issues with violations of public trust. In addition, both Alameda and Contra Costa County Sheriffs Departments have used surveillance methods in a way that civil liberties organizations object to. (see link at the bottom of the page) While our department is much smaller it does not mean it could not happen here. It is not a matter of trust to us, it is a matter of solid policy guidelines with accountability. Just because we live in a more liberal area does not mean that such violations could not occur. 

We understand that the public is generally exhausted with general political turmoil right now. But this is one of those slippery slopes where if we allow unregulated drones into our community then easily a next step is facial recognition technology which has been banned in Oakland, San Francisco and has a pending ban in Berkeley. We don’t want the line to be drawn at that point when that technology is already purchased as it is in this circumstance. The police purchased the drone a year ago before a policy had been put in place and before any public or council comment.

So what can you do?

  1. Read the policy here and send any feedback to evera@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us.
  2. As of now, Chief Keith is planning on presenting the policy at the December 17th council meeting. We will continue to keep you apprised of this. Follow us on Facebook for updates also.
  3. Email city council members and let them know your thoughts

Mayor Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto rpardueokimoto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Lyman glyman@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Councilperson Paul Fadeilli pfadelli@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Councilperson Janet Abelson jabelson@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Councilperson Gabriel Quinto  gquinto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

For more information 

Alameda and Contra Costa County Sheriffs Flew Drones Over Protests

El Cerrito Progressives in depth post on the surveillance ordinance

ECPD EXPLORING USE OF DRONES

There is a growing trend in the United States  towards using surveillance technology to cast a broad net over a community to protect public safety rather than developing methods that are more precise.  As a result, we are all subject to the scrutiny of law enforcement agencies regardless of whether or not our activities are against the law. The potential for abuse with this data is undeniable.  A rigorous ordinance can balance the tension between public safety, privacy, and civil liberties. In fact, El Cerrito’s recent process for a body camera policy provides an example of how use policies can be developed prior to implementation and with ample public input. 

We believe El Cerrito should implement a surveillance technology ordinance before obtaining these technologies so that privacy concerns and potential degradation of our civil liberties can be addressed from day one. Right now we know ICE is actively using these technologies to pursue undocumented immigrants. However, the facial recognition technology they are using is against drivers licenses which means most of our information is exposed to this. (1) San Francisco has just passed a ban on all facial recognition technology and other cities are following. (2)

There are many current types of surveillance technologies such as license plate readers, cameras, drones, cell site simulators, and new technologies are being developed every day. Many community members want to develop a policy that allows for public input before any such technologies are adapted by the city. Such a process was used for the body cameras the police wear and it was a great example of a balance between civil liberties and needs of the police. What do you think?

We would like an El Cerrito Ordinance on the use of surveillance technology that includes the following:

  1. Each new surveillance technology shall have a developed policy that is approved by the City Council. This policy shall include a detailed description of what the technology is, how it will be utilized, how, when, why, and with whom data will be shared, and what the data storage policy will be. 
  1. Any surveillance technology used by law enforcement shall be held to a high standard of public accountability.  An annual report of how data is being collected and used shall be shared with the community. This report shall include what equipment was used, how it was used, and how effective it was in preventing or solving a crime. 
  1. Any surveillance data collected shall have stated requirements for how long data can be stored, and how it will be stored.  
  1. El Cerrito Police Department will develop strict guidelines for how information is shared will other law enforcement/government agencies. Information will never be shared with ICE.
  1. No contract for surveillance technology shall be entered into with any agency that shares their data with ICE (such as Vigilant). 
  1. A process shall be established to enable citizens to know if their data has been collected. 

We believe there can be a balance between the use of technology for crime protection and protection of civil liberties. Join us if you would like to see a reasonable policy that protects our privacy.

Links to Articles:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/07/07/fbi-ice-find-state-drivers-license-photos-are-gold-mine-facial-recognition-searches/?utm_term=.4df8b56d0acc

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/us/facial-recognition-ban-san-francisco.html

 

ECPD EXPLORING USE OF DRONES

The article below is a reprint of a previous ECP post and relevant to the public meeting being called for by the El Cerrito Police Department.

There is a growing trend in the United States  towards using surveillance technology to cast a broad net over a community to protect public safety rather than developing methods that are more precise.  As a result, we are all subject to the scrutiny of law enforcement agencies regardless of whether or not our activities are against the law. The potential for abuse with this data is undeniable.  A rigorous ordinance can balance the tension between public safety, privacy, and civil liberties. In fact, El Cerrito’s recent process for a body camera policy provides an example of how use policies can be developed prior to implementation and with ample public input. 

We believe El Cerrito should implement a surveillance technology ordinance before obtaining these technologies so that privacy concerns and potential degradation of our civil liberties can be addressed from day one. Right now we know ICE is actively using these technologies to pursue undocumented immigrants. However, the facial recognition technology they are using is against drivers licenses which means most of our information is exposed to this. (1) San Francisco has just passed a ban on all facial recognition technology and other cities are following. (2)

There are many current types of surveillance technologies such as license plate readers, cameras, drones, cell site simulators, and new technologies are being developed every day. Many community members want to develop a policy that allows for public input before any such technologies are adapted by the city. Such a process was used for the body cameras the police wear and it was a great example of a balance between civil liberties and needs of the police. What do you think?

We would like an El Cerrito Ordinance on the use of surveillance technology that includes the following:

  1. Each new surveillance technology shall have a developed policy that is approved by the City Council. This policy shall include a detailed description of what the technology is, how it will be utilized, how, when, why, and with whom data will be shared, and what the data storage policy will be. 
  1. Any surveillance technology used by law enforcement shall be held to a high standard of public accountability.  An annual report of how data is being collected and used shall be shared with the community. This report shall include what equipment was used, how it was used, and how effective it was in preventing or solving a crime. 
  1. Any surveillance data collected shall have stated requirements for how long data can be stored, and how it will be stored.  
  1. El Cerrito Police Department will develop strict guidelines for how information is shared will other law enforcement/government agencies. Information will never be shared with ICE.
  1. No contract for surveillance technology shall be entered into with any agency that shares their data with ICE (such as Vigilant). 
  1. A process shall be established to enable citizens to know if their data has been collected. 

We believe there can be a balance between the use of technology for crime protection and protection of civil liberties. Join us if you would like to see a reasonable policy that protects our privacy.

Links to Articles:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/07/07/fbi-ice-find-state-drivers-license-photos-are-gold-mine-facial-recognition-searches/?utm_term=.4df8b56d0acc

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/us/facial-recognition-ban-san-francisco.html

 

Month of Momentum is Now! Defend Immigrants

After 30 days of daily protests outside ICE to close the camps, hosting organizations invite EVERYONE to attend a culminating protest on Saturday, August 31 at Noon.

Meet up at El Cerrito Plaza and Del Norte BART stations at 11:00 am. ECP will have two banners: Abolish ICE and Close the Camps. Let’s travel together to 630 Sansome St., SF – ICE Headquarters.

Music by:
•Emma’s Revolution – https://emmasrevolution.com
•Diana Gameros – https://www.dianagameros.com
•Betsy Rose & Bonnie Lockhart – https://www.betsyrosemusic.org
•La Peña Chorus (with Lichi Fuentes) – https://www.lapenachorus.org

Speakers:
•Maria Xiomara Dorsey, Idle No More
•Sandy Valenciano, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
•Frankie Free Ramos, Bay Area Boricuas
•Others TBA

And food

**Sponsoring hosts will be raising funds that day for Freedom for Immigrants Bond Fund. Bring some money to donate!
https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/national-bond-fund

Action Alert: Pack the Court!

The East Bay Sanctuary Covenant are the lead plaintiff suing the Trump Administration regarding the Third County Transit Ban. There will be a hearing on their REQUEST FOR A TRO (TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER) ON WEDNESDAY, JULY 24, AT 9:30AM. The hearing will be at the Northern District courthouse in San Francisco, 450 Golden Gate Ave. Judge Tigar’s courtroom is on the 19th floor. They are asking supporters to show up. There are also some other action steps at the bottom of the info below. For more information https://ebsc.nationbuilder.com/?utm_campaign=ebsc_v_barr&utm_medium=email&utm_source=ebsc 

Facts about the Third Country Ban Lawsuit

According to Michael Smith, EBSC’s Director of Refugee Rights, “Trump’s policy is illegal and usurps the power of Congress to make laws. Seeking asylum is clearly protected under U.S. and international asylum law. EBSC’s asylum clients are fleeing horrific violence in their home countries. EBSC has one of the largest affirmative asylum programs in the U.S. and has successfully helped almost 4,000 people to obtain asylum.

Over 97% of EBSC’s asylum cases are approved, showing that these claims are meritorious. These are people fleeing persecution and seeking safety under the law. Contrary to what the administration is claiming, this population is not safe in Guatemala or Mexico, where they are vulnerable to their persecutors and other forms of oppression. Many of EBSC’s clients, including LGBTQ people and survivors of gender-based violence, are fleeing persecution in Mexico. Asylum seekers crossing the U.S. southern border are not only from Central America. They may be from Russia, Africa, and Asia; some have traveled through South America, the jungles of Panama and Central America, with the hopes of reaching safety. Nearly all of EBSC clients are victims of atrocious forms of persecution – 80% have been raped or sexually abused, including male and female children. Going forward, 80% of EBSC clients would be unable to apply for asylum.

The ramifications of the Trump administration’s actions will be long-reaching for people who are genuinely deserving of asylum protection. EBSC’s 37-year old asylum program reaching the most traumatized populations would be terminated. Act Now! Write your congressional representatives! Join EBSC’s social media networks. Share accurate news and articles so more people are informed of the detrimental impact of these attacks on asylum law. Support EBSC by volunteering or donating – your support matters!