San Diego exempts police databases, security cameras from surveillance transparency law — with more changes likely

San Diego’s City Council on Tuesday approved substantial changes to the city’s regulation of surveillance technology used by police and other departments, despite vocal opposition from privacy rights advocates.

In August of 2022, the City Council passed the Transparent and Responsible Use of Surveillance Technology (TRUST) Ordinance, which gave departments one year to identify existing surveillance tech, hold community meetings and secure council approval for each item. Departments would need to complete a similar process for newly adopted surveillance technology.

The ordinance was considered among the most robust surveillance transparency laws in the country. But it has since endured a series of amendments, largely pushed by Mayor Todd Gloria, who argues the ordinance is overly broad and hamstrings city operations.

Last summer, as the one-year approval deadline approached and many technologies hadn’t started the review process, the City Council pushed back the deadline by three years. At the City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, council members passed additional changes that would exempt from review police databases, fixed security cameras and other technologies previously subject to the law. They also indicated additional changes were likely.

Full story: San Diego exempts police databases, security cameras from surveillance transparency law — with more changes likely

3 Replies to “San Diego exempts police databases, security cameras from surveillance transparency law — with more changes likely”

  1. Does the exemption of police cameras and tech conflict with the idea of transparency itself? It is quite literally in the name that the topic of this law is surveillance transparency, not just transparency regarding police activity, or AAR’s about what recent events the police have participated in. This outright exemption is for the protection of intelligence on the police’s behalf, yet it contradicts the TRUST ordinance, which is arguably a win for the government and police within San Diego. Considering that the idea around this is review of police activity, and further accountability, it would be unsurprising that the public’s general perception of this decision would be negative, rather than a positive one. Perhaps one way to curb this and reach the original goal of the ordinance would be to entirely redraft it, rather than passing constant amendments making the whole ordinance null and void for its intended purposes.

    1. The “Surveillance Transparency Ordinance” in San Diego, which was designed to promote public trust and transparency, is broken because it exempts police technology and cameras. This apparent inconsistency prompts various worries, if the ordinance’s stated goal is transparency itself,then leaving out police technology will inevitably harm that cause. The initiative’s legitimacy is called into question by excluding the very instruments most likely to record contacts between citizens and law enforcement. Preserving “intelligence” appears to be in opposition to fostering confidence. This exemption runs counter to the “win” that the TRUST ordinance purports to represent, implying that police secrecy is preferable to public accountability.

  2. When the rules about surveillance in San Diego got changed recently I can definitely see why some people aren’t happy about it. I am worried this might mean less transparency and oversight, especially for things like protecting city stuff and police databases. Even though they’re trying to make the rules better, I still don’t think it’s fair. It’s a tricky balance between keeping things safe and respecting people’s privacy.

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