New Bill Requires Public Notice of Agency Surveillance Use

By Shaun Rundle, Legislative & Region Affairs Representative.

To build upon the Legislature’s desire for more law enforcement transparency, Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) recently introduced SB 21. This bill would require agencies, starting July 1, 2018 to present to its governing body at a public hearing a plan for use of all surveillance technology as well as the information it collects. In addition to specifically defining “surveillance technology,” SB 21 also outlines: what the definition does not include, how agencies are to present the information at a public hearing, and what needs to be included in the presented policy. CPOA’s Law & Legislation Committee is meeting at the end of the month, and will review the bill and determine a position on it.

SB 21 defines ‘law enforcement agency’ as a police department, sheriff’s department, college campus, or special district agency created to enforce the law. These agencies must present to their governing bodies at a public meeting, specific departmental policies on how they use surveillance technology on citizens, as well as how the collected information is used.

The bill clearly outlines what is to be included in the definition of “surveillance technology:”

  • Drones with cameras or monitoring capabilities
  • Electronic device intended to collect audio, video, locational or thermal information
  • Automated license plate readers
  • Closed circuit cameras/televisions
  • GPS Systems and Trackers
  • Radio-frequency Identification (RFID)

Standard law enforcement agency computers, software, fingerprint scanners, IID’s, cell phones, two-way radios or other similar devices do not fall under the definition of ‘surveillance technology,’ and would not be included in SB 21’s reporting.

Senator Hill is no stranger to legislation on law enforcement surveillance policy. In 2015 he introduced SB 34, a bill that imposed specific requirements on usage of ALPRs, including adding information collected from ALPRs to be considered “personal information.” Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 34 into law later that year.

Once CPOA’s Law & Legislation Committee reviews the bill at its upcoming January meeting, they may determine a position to be taken. At that time, CPOA will convey our concerns and position to lawmakers before the bill is heard in policy committee at the Capitol.