Do you know what surveillance equipment your local police force has? Do they roam the streets with an ALPR, scanning license plates of parked cars on the chance one of them is a stolen vehicle? Are ShotSpotters installed in your neighborhood, recording all the sounds that go on around them and around you? Is your cell phone being tricked into connecting to a police Stingray device rather than the nearest cell tower when you make a phone call?
Chances are good that your local police is making use of at least one of these invasive surveillance tools, or perhaps some other, unbeknownst to you or even your city council.
On Tuesday September 21, we joined the ACLU and 14 other groups to launch a new campaign to make police surveillance more accountable to the communities law enforcement is supposed to serve. It’s called Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS). The campaign will engage with local coalitions to pass ordinances to require that any new aquisitions of surveillance technology be approved by the city council. While this may seem like an obvious policy decision, in many communities elected officials, much less the public at large, are completely in the dark about what technology their local police are using. Before the city council even considers allowing police to acquire any surveillance technology, the ordinance mandates that the community be given significant involvement in the decision and the city must consider civil liberties and civil rights impacts of using such technologies.
Already, eleven different cities are considering legislation to accomplish this end, but our goal is to pass CCOPS ordinances in many more cities across the country. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation (BORDC/DDF) is proud to join the partnership, which was spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union and includes many of our long time allies, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, and the Tenth Amendment Center. See the CCOPS guidelines below.
BORDC/DDF grassroots partners have successfully passed local ordinances and resolutions through the years. Over 400 cities and towns passed resolutions against the Patriot Act, and cities from Asheville, NC to Hartford, CT have passed laws based on BORDC/DDF’s Local Civil Liberties Protection Act (LCLPA). The CCOPS campaign provides an opportunity for grassroots groups to to come together to make significant progress to promote transparency and push back against the surveillance state.
As technology evolves, police across the country are equipping themselves with even more sophisticated ways to spy on us. While unchecked law enforcement surveillance poses a threat to all of our liberties, this technology is disproportionately deployed against working class neighborhoods and communities of color. This constant surveillance and criminalization of entire communities only heightens the need for the people to know what technologies the police intend to turn on them, and to have a chance to say NO.