Should the SFPD have more access to images from surveillance cameras?


San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday proposed changing a city law regarding the use of surveillance cameras by law enforcement in an effort to improve public safety.

Breed plans to introduce legislation at next week’s meeting of supervisors to amend the city’s Surveillance Technology Ordinance, approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2019.

Breed also introduced a ballot measure on Tuesday that would allow voters to decide the amendment in the June election. The ballot measure would only move forward if the Board of Supervisors votes against Breed’s proposed legislation, city officials said.

According to Breed, the amendment is necessary to allow local authorities to access and use real-time video footage. Under the current Surveillance Technology Ordinance, authorities can only access footage in an emergency involving imminent danger or serious physical injury to a person.

Breed’s proposed amendment would explicitly allow law enforcement to temporarily use cameras to monitor high-crime areas and respond to critical events such as looting, kidnapping, organized robbery and terrorist acts, among other events.

“We are talking about violent crimes, including property crimes that are committed more frequently with the use of firearms, getaway vehicles and other weapons that can seriously injure or even kill innocent bystanders,” Breed said in a statement. “These situations also include entrenched outdoor drug trafficking, again with the use of guns and other weapons, in neighborhoods where families and older people are afraid to leave their homes.”

“We can give our law enforcement the tools they need, while maintaining robust oversight and safeguards to ensure those tools are used appropriately to combat dangerous criminal activity,” he said. she declared.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott supports Breed’s proposed changes.

Although Breed promised safeguards and oversight of the proposed changes, several supervisors criticized Breed’s plan on Wednesday and introduced their own ballot measure to ensure more transparency around the use of surveillance cameras.

Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Connie Chan, Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton and Dean Preston introduced the Safe Communities and Open Government Act. The ballot measure would bolster the existing Surveillance Technology Act, which in addition to banning facial recognition also requires the police department to submit usage policies regarding surveillance technology.

Supervisors allege the ballot measure is necessary because the police department has repeatedly failed to submit usage policies for dozens of monitoring devices in the two-and-a-half years since the original order was passed. on technological monitoring.

San Francisco public defender Mano Raju supports the ballot measure proposed by supervisors.

“Expanding police oversight bolsters a department that continues to disproportionately target and harm communities of color,” Raju said. “San Franciscans have long refused to give police sweeping powers to bring more people into a flawed criminal justice system. Drug use and economic crimes cannot be addressed by expanding the police state; they are avoided by investing in marginalized communities.

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