In response to the expansion of Vallejo Police Department surveillance technology–such as Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR) as well as Open Vallejo report on their secret use of facial recognition technology–On April 21st, the Libertarian Party of Solano County Executive Committee voted to sign on the following community letter:
Dear Honorable Members of the City Council,
We are local community groups dedicated to protecting civil rights and civil liberties, including the right to be free from intrusive, discriminatory, and dangerous government surveillance. We write to urge the City Council to create an Ad Hoc Surveillance Advisory Board consisting of Vallejo residents. This advisory board would give residents and elected leaders important power and a role in decisions about surveillance technology, and its adoption would make our City a leader in protecting local residents from unaccountable, secretive, and racist police surveillance.
Surveillance is an instrument of police control, abuse, and intrusion. Right now, the community has no say over what surveillance tech the Vallejo Police Department (VPD) deploys. VPD’s current surveillance arsenal is large — the department currently uses a cellular-site simulator (stingray), automated license plate readers (ALPR), a private camera registry, body-worn cameras, and an agreement with Amazon’s home surveillance equipment company, Ring, to gain special access to the company’s Neighbors app. VPD has already made clear their plans to expand surveillance, adopt more technology, and increase information sharing. Many of these technologies are known to be racially discriminatory. Some can even be accessed by ICE. And all of them will inevitably be used to monitor and sabotage activists, immigrants, people of color, and other marginalized and frequently targeted groups.
The Vallejo City Police Department is one of the most deadly and abusive in California. Since 2007, they have shot and killed 37 people. This is the last police department that should be getting more surveillance technology.
Democracy means that the people, not the police, are in control. We should have the power to keep dangerous surveillance out of our neighborhoods. We should have the power to keep us safe. The creation of the Ad Hoc Surveillance Advisory Board allows the community to work with the City Council to make more informed choices about surveillance. Such an Advisory Board can research surveillance issues and recommend laws that the City Council can adopt for the community.
Responsibilities of the board would include:
To advise the City of Vallejo on best practices to protect the safety, privacy, and civil rights of Vallejo residents in connection with surveillance technology;
To submit recommendations, findings, and reports to City staff and the City Council related to surveillance technology, including whether the City Council should reject or cease the use of particular surveillance technology;
To draft and recommend for City Council consideration model legislation on matters relevant to surveillance technology;
To conduct meetings and create a space for public input and comment about the impact of surveillance practices on their lives; and
To analyze and request information about the City’s current and proposed surveillance technologies and make recommendations to the City Council;
Attached is our coalition’s preferred legislative language for this type of Advisory Board.
Solano Libertarians encourages all libertarians in Solano County to show support for this initiative by contacting the Vallejo City Council by emailing them directly or using this link. Refer to this cheat sheet for guidance.