San Francisco Police Officers Can Use Private Cameras for Surveillance • The Register

The San Francisco Police Department will now use non-city video cameras for real-time surveillance under a rule approved by the Board of Supervisors.

The controversial policy [PDF] allows police officers in the US West Coast city to use privately owned surveillance cameras and camera networks to conduct investigations, live monitoring of “significant events involving public safety concerns” and investigations related to active misdemeanors and felonies.

Police must get permission from camera owners to use the footage, but they don’t have to received an arrest warrant First.

The regulations will expire 15 months after they come into force. At that time, the legislation will be resubmitted to the Oversight Body for review of the situation.

The use of private surveillance cameras for police surveillance has been advocated by Mayor London Breed since November last year wild weekend of orchestrated burglaries and thefts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Proponents of the policy hope it will help police officers combat future similar crime outbreaks and increase public safety without invading people’s privacy.

Under the city’s existing law, police can only request historical — non-live — footage from private cameras at specific times and locations, rather than blanket surveillance. The law, passed Tuesday by a 7-4 vote, allows police to request “temporary live surveillance” — essentially 24-hour access to live camera footage — for three reasons: to alert for life-or-death emergencies or such to respond with threats of serious bodily harm; during large, “significant events involving public safety concerns”; and conduct a criminal investigation.

It specifically prohibits the SFPD from requesting surveillance footage “for the purpose of enforcing reproductive care bans or interstate travel for reproductive care.” Additionally, alluding to concerns about habituation to security cameras create criminal cases against people in post-Roe America, it contains this language:

The legislation also required the police agency to provide public quarterly reports on surveillance efforts. Technically, this week’s vote will take a second to complete, but that’s likely to happen. Police leaders have requested time to discuss the details of the policy before this final decision.

Privacy and civil rights groups argue that the directive is too broad and that the surveillance practices it allows can be used to disproportionately criminalize people of color, activists, immigrants and the LGBTQ community.

“It allows for live surveillance of protests and really every public activity that’s happening in San Francisco,” said EFF attorney Saira Hussain The registry. “Protests and dissent are a long and cherished part of our history in San Francisco.”

When the program ends in 15 months, “we will be back in full force with the board to prevent its reapproval,” she added.

Protests and dissent are a long and treasured part of our history in San Francisco

EFF and the ACLU of Northern California sued the city for SFPD in 2020 Second hand Business district camera network to monitor live protests following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and last month appealed in this court case.

Hussain pointed out this lawsuit, plus alleged police surveillance during the Pride marches in San Francisco, as two real-world implications for how the new policy can be used to target underrepresented groups and people attending protests.

“It’s really emblematic, when you give the police these powers, they end up using them in ways that many San Franciscans would find troubling,” she said. “That’s why civil and freedom rights activists have sounded the alarm.”

EFF was one of 17 organizations, including the ACLU, the Center for Social Justice GLIDE, and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, to send a joint letter to the board of directors this summer, urging the panel to do so against politics.

“We are very concerned with the outcome of yesterday’s board vote,” said ACLU of Northern California Attorney Jennifer Jones The registry.

“Police should not be given access to the thousands of private cameras in our city to surround communities, protests or city blocks with live surveillance,” she said, echoing a number of tweets the organization announced after Tuesday’s vote. ® San Francisco Police Officers Can Use Private Cameras for Surveillance • The Register

Laura Coffey

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