Advocacy Groups Blast Surveillance Proposal as Jenkins Holds a Talk in the Tenderloin

Share:

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

San Francisco, CA – This week newly appointed DA Brooke Jenkins jumped onboard a brewing fight over surveillance cameras.  Already, a coalition of community and civil rights organizations have sent a letter urging the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to oppose or at the very least modify a San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) proposal that would give police the ability to access private surveillance cameras for the purpose of live monitoring of “significant events.”

One of the organizations opposed to such powers is Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Saira Hussain, a staff attorney for EFF told the Vanguard, “the program that the SFPD wants to create is unprecedented in city history, and it would let SFPD co-op private cameras mounted on homes, businesses, and organizations to conduct sweeping live surveillance.”

She argued, “if the SFPD asked the city to buy thousands of new cameras for live surveillance and put them up all across the various blocks of San Francisco residents and the Board of Supervisors would be rightfully alarmed.”  She added, “the proposal here should be met with just as much skepticism because here the proposal is to exploit private surveillance cameras for the very same purpose.”

Like others, the EFF is concerned about privacy invasion and the invasion of civil rights of San Francisco and in particular the marginalized communities of San Francisco.

While there seems to be a strong public backlash, others, concerned about crime and drugs, have embraced the approach, arguing that it would give law enforcement a tool to better combat open air drug markets.

Hussain argued that there are a number of risks here.

“The first is around the type of sweeping live surveillance that SFPD wants to be able to access currently,” she said.  “Currently SFPD s limited in the type of live monitoring that it can do using private cameras. And what they’re seeking to do is drastically expand that use to cover almost any scenario.”

In this proposal they want to be able to use live cameras for felony and misdemeanor violations, set up a camera, access the camera where “they think something bad may happen to be able to view it.”

Hussain noted that there was an exchange with the Board of Supervisors on Monday, where the police chief argued that “if there’s a corner that’s known for shootings, for example, we may want to monitor over the cameras there.”

The Board was a little skeptical of the utility of setting up a camera to capture a shooting without the police actually being there.

Hussain said, “that may not exactly make sense.”

She noted that they also want to set up live surveillance “for any significant event,” which she said, “they define very broadly to include any event involving a street closure or SFPD having to direct traffic. And you can imagine a host of scenarios where that takes place, literally any protest that happens in San Francisco, religious gatherings, (or) parades.”

She said, “there are real concerns about people being able to actually exercise their first amendment activities, without being under the police’s watchful eye the entire time.”

She further questioned the “type of historical footage that the police want to be able to access. There are few limitations on historical footage and we believe that really needs to be narrowed down to events where there’s evidence of a crime or exonerating evidence potentially.”

She argued, “that information shouldn’t be retained for two years, which is what the SFPD is proposing because that can later be misused.”

With recent court cases, there is also concern with using video to prosecute those seeking abortion access or gender-affirming care.

“Those requests do not comport with San Francisco’s values,” she said but could be compelled even if such actions do not break state law.

She said, “We should not be sharing that type of information out of state and federal agencies. And there have to be limitations on that. So we just really feel like this proposal is extremely broad, would give SFPD essentially unprecedented access to private surveillance cameras that quite frankly exist all over the city. And we believe that the proposal as it stands just does not pass muster of protecting privacy and civil liberties.”

While newly appointed DA Jenkins came out in favor it, Hussain pointed out, “it is important to note that, uh, in a citywide poll that was conducted on this very proposal, 60% of likely voters for November, 2022, oppose giving SFPD  the power to obtain live realtime access, to watch and monitor surveillance cameras at private businesses in public streets and spaces and on people’s homes.”

She said, “this is not a popular proposal.”

Moreover she said, the same polling “shows that San Francisco residents overwhelmingly prefer alternatives to surveillance and police. They want more resources on drug and mental health programs, more healthcare providers and social workers, and even more street lights.”

Finally, the proposal purports to address open air drug dealing.

“If you know something is happening, how do the cameras necessarily help?” she said.  She pointed out one of the survivors brought up the point, “is this how we really want to use our resources?  Because you know, something’s happening, like, is it actually helpful to do the live monitoring?”

She added, “this has serious implications for people’s civil rights here in San Francisco. We also know that when the police say things like there’s open air drug markets out the potential impact to, and the potential disproportionate impact to marginalized communities, communities of color, um, communities that have traditionally been overpoliced.”

The concern here is that they will misuse use these to target certain communities and disproportionately punish them.

This was borne out on Tuesday when DA Brooke Jenkins held a press conference in the Tenderloin to address drug issues.

Reporter Gil Duran tweeted, “Active drug use and sales took place within sight of the new DA as she spoke, reinforcing the intractability of the problem she says she’ll solve

She said, “Seeing the drug deals seeing open drug use on the street, that is not something that we can tolerate in the Tenderloin any longer.”

She continued, “I have committed to them just like I did the entire city to making sure that we end these open air drug markets that we clear these streets so that the kids and the people who live here can go about their daily lives without being scared.”

But perhaps illustrating the difficult, Duran tweeted, “After the DA left, a few TV crews trained their cameras on a man directly across the street, his pants around his knees, struggling to remain standing, succumbing to the “fentanyl fold””

Share:

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

10 thoughts on “Advocacy Groups Blast Surveillance Proposal as Jenkins Holds a Talk in the Tenderloin”

  1. Ron Oertel

    But perhaps illustrating the difficult, Duran tweeted, “After the DA left, a few TV crews trained their cameras on a man directly across the street, his pants around his knees, struggling to remain standing, succumbing to the “fentanyl fold””

    How is that not claimed as an invasion of privacy?  And when a video is posted on the Internet, what are the “rules” regarding that?

    Much ado about nothing.  If anyone wants to videotape/focus on me, they’ve got a long, boring period of time awaiting them. I wouldn’t even want to see it myself.

    Cameras will become increasingly ubiquitous, and will increasingly be used to record crimes and identify suspects. The benefits of this outweigh any drawbacks by far (not even close).

    Strange, how these same activists pour over police videos (and scrutinize them for hours on end), but don’t want to see what perpetrators are doing. And for just about everyone (including/especially those in the Tenderloin), their biggest danger comes from other civilians, not police officers. (Again, not even close.)

    1. Mark Shapiro

      So what happens if you show up on a video right after a crime occurs and they use the video as evidence of your culpability?  Scoff if you want.  I had a client who was charged with a crime and spent two years of his life fighting those charges based on just such a scenario.  It nearly bankrupted him.  And he was lucky, he was able to bail out of custody and he wasn’t wrongly convicted.  It could happen to you! Even if you are completely innocent.

      1. Bill Marshall

        And, if you’re fully culpable of a crime, it can get you off the street… two edged sword… the tool isn’t the problem, it comes to “who uses the tool, and how do they do so?”…

        The tool is not the problem… a shovel, a hammer, a screwdriver can be a lethal weapon if wrongly used… should we ban all those tools?  Or focus on how, and by whom, and when they are used?

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          The staff attorney for the EFF that I interviewed suggested the need for better safeguards. So that would be one approach.

        2. Bill Marshall

          But, as you point out in your post

          I had a client who was charged with a crime and spent two years of his life fighting those charges based on just such a scenario.  It nearly bankrupted him

          How much of the bolded situation was due to what you charged your client?  Food for thought…

          Good, if he was factually innocent/wrongfully accused that there was ‘resolution’… but “attorney fees” were likely a part of the “nearly bankrupted him” thingy… goes to “what ‘tools’ are used, by whom, and how”…  was the financial thing due to detention, court costs, interruption of employment, or was a significant part of it due ‘the representation of your client’?    Some attorneys do things “pro bono”… not for me to ‘judge’… yet you seem inclined to ‘judge’ others…

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You expect other people to work for free? I have no idea about the case, but I do know that often the biggest costs in court cases are investigators and experts, which there is no way to waive those fees – so the lawyer either passes them to the client or eats it.

      2. Ron Oertel

        So what happens if you show up on a video right after a crime occurs and they use the video as evidence of your culpability?

        I’m hoping that my “privilege” allows me to stay out of that neighborhood in the first place.  And if not, I’m hoping that the same “privilege” ensures that I’m not charged with a crime I didn’t commit.

        However, this might also make me a target for those who resent “perceived privilege” – in which case I’d want those cameras in place. It wouldn’t be the first time that others actually attacked someone based upon “perceived privilege”. (In the old days, they used to just call it being “white”.)

        Though in the case of homeless individuals in places like the Tenderloin (some of whom attack others), they’re also (quite often) “white”. In which case, they’re probably perceiving privilege as not living like they do.

         

  2. Bill Marshall

    You expect other people to work for free? I have no idea about the case, but I do know that often the biggest costs in court cases are investigators and experts, which there is no way to waive those fees – so the lawyer either passes them to the client or eats it.

    I said nothing of the kind… and you are responding to a question addressed to Mark S… are you authorized to speak for him?  If not, consider what you are doing, by setting an example, to one of the major problems with blogs… you sound like at least two other ‘frequent flyers’, who question folk when a question is not posed to them… you admit you have no idea about the case… yet you posit,

    You expect other people to work for free? 

    I do know that often the biggest costs in court cases are investigators and experts, which there is no way to waive those fees – so the lawyer either passes them to the client or eats it.

    If you are correct, still doesn’t get to the “lawyer fees” part of it…

    Let Mark S respond if he chooses to… your response is just so much “static”…

    I do not expect a response from Mark S… it was clearly not an “attack”… the reason for your response eludes me…

  3. Jean-Jacques Surbeck

    “Like others, the EFF is concerned about privacy invasion and the invasion of civil rights of San Francisco and in particular the marginalized communities of San Francisco.” Another well worn excuse for not fighting crime where crime takes place. It is truly astonishing that the “EFF staff attorney” (she could have written the article herself since you quoted her so much) is only concerned about potential civil rights violations but not at all about crime, i.e. violation of right to life and violation of property rights. Even if there are demonstrations of any sort, as long as no one does anything violent or illegal, there is nothing to fear from being filmed. Most people are filmed anyway today since the first thing witnesses do – rather than help the victim of a crime – is pull out their iPhone and videotape whatever is happening. THAT should be a problem for Ms. Hussain to focus on because it’s real, not just putative. Bottom line: as long as there is crime, there should be no hesitation to help the police do its job, i.e. protect us. I’m surprised there are still any police officer left in San Francisco where so many people treat them as if they were the enemy, when the real enemies are the criminals. If I was one of them, I would have long left this masochistic crowd and leave them to their fate.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for