(Editor’s note: the following is a letter from Davis People Power to the Davis City Council).
Proposal to update the City of Davis Surveillance Device Ordinance
Davis People Power is a group of citizens concerned with the state and future of criminal justice and public safety in Davis. In 2018 we closely followed the proposal for and enactment of the City of Davis’ Surveillance Technology ordinance (Municipal Code Article 26.07). We have offered comments on the proposals for surveillance technologies and the process for their annual review. We have concerns about the proposal and review process by which technologies are approved and implemented by the city, and particularly by the Davis Police Department.
Surveillance technologies have the potential to increase public safety. But their use is reasonably likely to raise concerns about civil liberties, freedom of speech or association, racial equity or social justice. We believe that the current process does not:
- Include enough time for the public to thoroughly review and/or comment on department proposals or their annual reports; and
- Make use of the Police Accountability Commission (PAC) to review the policies and procedures that govern how surveillance data is gathered and its use is reported annually by any city department, especially when data is available to the Davis Police Department.
We believe that PAC review will increase transparency and stimulate more discussion to balance the need to: investigate and prevent crimes; protect crime victims and society from those who commit crimes; protect civil rights and civil liberties, including privacy and free expression. We strongly believe that PAC review of proposed surveillance technology policies and annual reporting metrics are within the scope of the Commission’s charge and will add to the ability of the Council to make informed and judicious decisions about these technologies.
Under current law, departments are required to submit proposals for new surveillance technologies, new use of existing technologies, and annual use reports for all approved technologies (Secs. 26.07.030 and 26.07.060). These proposals and reports are submitted to the City Council by being placed on the Council’s consent calendar thirty days prior to a public hearing held during a City Council meeting. We believe this process is too short to adequately vet these complex technologies and their use. To increase the transparency, oversight, and accountability of these complex technologies, and to invite more public awareness and participation in this process we propose the following changes to the Surveillance Technology ordinance:
- The PAC will have responsibility to review all annual reports of surveillance technologies and proposals for new technologies.
- To facilitate this review the PAC will organize a subcommittee of members and the public to review the submitted reports or proposals, review any metrics and use data submitted with the proposal or report, and make recommendations to the full Commission.
- If possible, the subcommittee shall include one of the City Council liaisons to the Commission.
- Increase the review period prior to the public hearing from 30 days to 75 days as follows:
- Seventy-five days prior to the date of the proposed public hearing by the Council, draft reports for technologies will be submitted to the PAC.
- A subcommittee of the PAC will be charged with reviewing each report and making recommendations about the content of the report and any usage statistics presented.
- The commission as-a-whole will consider the subcommittee’s recommendations and comments at its next regularly scheduled meeting and finalize the recommendations. This will typically occur 30 days after receipt of the report or proposal.
- The department submitting the reports will have 15 days to update their report and submit it to the City Council for placement on the consent calendar.
- Thirty days before the proposed City Council meeting at which the public hearing will be held, the report will be placed on the Council’s consent calendar.
- At the end of the 30-day period, the Council will hold a public hearing to approve or disapprove the report or proposal, and the use of the technology.
We believe that amending the ordinance to include the PAC’s participation in the review process and to extend the review by 45 days will increase public participation, allow for a broad discussion of the issues with each technology, and allow for a full vetting of the technology and its use by the Davis Police Department. We welcome discussion with members of the Council and city staff about this proposal.
Thank you for your consideration.