Agency Surveillance Use Bill Barely Passes Senate

By Shaun Rundle, Legislative & Region Affairs Representative.

With 40 members of the State Senate, non-tax or urgency bills need a simple majority, or 21 votes to pass the Senate and move on the Assembly. One bill that CPOA has opposed since the beginning of the year squeaked by with just the 21 votes needed last week. The bill is SB 21 by Senator Jerry Hill (San Mateo) and would set some serious limitations on law enforcement agency usage and public release of all surveillance technology used by that agency.

SB 21 has gone through various amendments and changes since it was first introduced by Senator Hill last December. It started out by saying you would have to go to your governing body, at a regularly scheduled public meeting to present for approval a policy on every type of surveillance equipment your agency uses. This meant ALPRs, GPS systems, closed-circuit cameras, etc.

At that time, I outlined our concerns about that proposal to the author’s office. Amendments were later made to allow for exigent circumstances to exist as exceptions to publicly presenting the policies and information collected, but the staffer working the bill told me that the Senator works closely with the ACLU and they don’t think the bill goes far enough. So, sure enough, later amendments removed the exigency and said if policies were not approved by the governing body, you had to cease use of the technologies within 30 days. Further amendments said you must submit a report within 45 days of the end of the circumstances, and technology must be returned with 7 days following acquisition.

Those mandates have stayed in the bill, but the California Highway Patrol and CA DOJ are now excluded from the governing body approval process. In addition, no funding or state reimbursements to local agencies are made pursuant to SB 21.

With the bill only receiving 21 votes in the Senate, it faces a bigger hurdle in the 80-member Assembly. CPOA continues to oppose SB 21, and will continue to voice our concerns as it is heard in Assembly committees.

If it becomes law, the mandates will take effect July 1, 2018.

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