american civil liberties union

Skid Row Shooting Tests LAPD Body-Worn Cameras Procedures

The officer-involved shooting Sunday, March 1, on skid row that left a man dead could be an early test of the Los Angeles Police Department’s new body camera program for officers. The encounter was recorded by body cameras worn by at least one of the officers involved in the incident.

Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned

Police leaders who have deployed body-worn cameras say there are many benefits associated with the devices. They note that body-worn cameras are useful for documenting evidence; officer training; preventing and resolving complaints brought by members of the public; and strengthening police transparency, performance, and accountability. In addition, given that police now operate in a world in which anyone with a cell phone camera can record video footage of a police encounter, body-worn cameras help police departments ensure events are also captured from an officer’s perspective.

ACLU Urges More Public Debate on Surveillance Technologies

The ACLU recently released a report regarding how security and surveillance cameras and recordings are beginning to erode at civil liberties. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California recently launched a statewide campaign to ensure that public debate, oversight, and accountability precede the acquisition of surveillance technologies by law enforcement agencies. Counties and cities across California have spent in excess of $60 million on invasive surveillance technology, and only five of 90 communities studied held a public debate each time they introduced a new element, according to the ACLU report released Nov. 12.

Should ‘Cop Cams’ Be Worn At All Times?

At the heart of the violence and chaos in Ferguson is one question: What actually happened in the moments leading up to the death of Michael Brown. The public has heard from people who say they saw the incident. Authorities have spoken to the officer accused, but there’s still something missing. "If body worn cameras […]

Some Claim Boston Schools Go Too Far With Audio Surveillance Of School Buses

EDITORIAL –     Matthew J. Lee, Bostom Globe staff –   A new video camera system is installed above the drivers seat in a Boston school bus. Boston’s school department has offered no evidence that incidents of bullying or other misbehavior have increased to the point where both audio and video surveillance of students […]

Chicago Security Camera Surge Sparks Concerns Of ‘Massive Surveillance System’

Between traffic-light cameras, blue-light cameras that scan neighborhoods for violent crime, cameras on board city trains and buses —not to mention private security cameras— there are few places you can go in Chicago without being monitored. In the metropolis known as the City of Big Shoulders, it seems Big Brother really is watching. At last […]

Seattle PD Is Matching Mug Shots With High Tech

City Councilman Bruce Harrell, during an interview with Crosscut writers and editors The Seattle Police Department  has drafted a new policy to guide the use of facial recognition software.  The department, which came under criticism over earlier efforts to introduce new surveillance technologies, took steps to get outside advice during the development of the policy on facial recognition software. The software would allow police to check images of suspects against a database with 350,000 mug shots from King County. Photos in the database would be of people who’ve been arrested, fingerprinted and booked in jail. The department would purchase the “booking photo comparison software” with pending funds from a Department of Homeland Security grant.  While the technology might give pause to some privacy advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union has backed the policy because it narrowly limits the department’s use of the computer system and sets clear rules for oversight. Under the policy, the department can only use the software to identify “a person whom an officer reasonably suspects may be involved in criminal activity.” This means that cops cannot use the technology to identify witnesses, victims or other crime scene bystanders. The department is also not allowed to connect the database to “live” surveillance feeds, including the city’s currently offline “mesh network.” “It would be a great way to expedite some searching we’re already doing,” Assistant Chief Carmen Best told a City Council committee on Wednesday. “This only allows us to do it much more quickly and much more […]

Venice FL Installing 13 Crime-Fighting Cameras

VENICE – In an effort to deter vandalism and other crimes, the city is installing 13 cameras at some of its most frequented public places. Six security cameras now look over the bathrooms at Centennial Park downtown, while four others have been added to South Jetty Park. Three more are coming to the Venice Fishing Pier. John Veneziano, director of Venice Public Works, said the cameras were installed as a deterrent — not to spy on citizens. “Who has the time to monitor all that footage?” Veneziano said. “We’re working to make people understand that they can’t just destroy things without consequence.” Veneziano said the city spent $50,000 remodeling the park’s bathrooms after a string of vandalism this fall in which a wall was covered by graffiti, a urinal was ripped from another wall and fixtures, including a paper towel dispenser, were stolen. Centennial Park is not the only prominent public space damaged recently by vandals. Railings at the the Fishing Pier were destroyed. Piles of fish guts have been left on the wooden walkway for morning joggers to step in. Compare those expenses, Veneziano says, to the $1,500 the city spent to put security cameras in all three parks. Not everyone thinks the cameras are a good idea. Greater security means more intrusion by the government, warns Andrea Mogensen, vice president of the Sarasota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Mogenson said multiple cameras allow law enforcement or others to follow a person’s movements without a warrant […]

GA Department Of Natural Resources Invests In Cameras

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say body-mounted cameras for police officers in its law enforcement branch were a good investment. Officers like wearing the devices, called Vidmics, because they assure police an accurate depiction of interactions with citizens, Major Stephen Adams told the Gainesville Times. “It provides a good tool to reduce complaints from the public, to protect the officer and to protect the public,” Adams said. “There’s no recounting what happened — you watch the complaint.” The devices can guard the public from abusive police practices while protecting officers from false accusations, said staff attorney for the Georgia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, Chad Brock. The ACLU supports the use of the devices with proper safeguards, he said. “There shouldn’t be a policy where the officer can selectively turn off the recording. We would want to get a full picture, in guarding against abusive processes,” Brock said. The department has about 150 Vidmics and officers aren’t required to tell citizens they’re talking to that they’re being recorded, Adams said. In accordance with state guidelines, he added that the Department of Natural Resources keeps the footage on file for five years. The ACLU would like to see the data storage policies tweaked, Brock said. “We would want to see data retention policies that require police to destroy any of the video surveillance within a reasonable time for a routine encounter — three days to two weeks — unless there was a reason for […]