Berkeley: Stand Up for Community Control of Police Spy Tech

The Berkeley City Council will soon vote on an ordinance, supported by over two dozen local organizations and national civil rights groups, that will ensure that the people of Berkeley and their elected city council control whether their police and other city agencies will acquire powerful surveillance technologies. The proposed ordinance also would assure transparency in city agencies policies and practices for use of surveillance equipment.

Let your City Council members know that they, the elected representatives of the people of Berkeley, should be empowered with the authority to consider and responsibly approve, or reject, surveillance technology.

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To: council@cityofberkeley.info Subject: I Support the Surveillance Technology Use and Community Safety Ordinance Dear Berkeley City Council, As a Berkeley resident, I'm writing to urge you to pass the Surveillance Technology Use and Community Safety Ordinance. This ordinance provides the Berkeley public with the information and opportunity to participate in meaningful decisions about surveillance technology. As you know, this ordinance is the result of a robust and open debate among the City’s residents, civil society organizations, and government stakeholders. Through the process of holding hearings and soliciting the feedback of law enforcement and the people of Berkeley, it has been firmly established that this ordinance represents the civil rights, civil liberties, and public safety values of the people of Berkeley. This ordinance provides the Berkeley public with the information and opportunity to participate in meaningful decisions about surveillance technology. Community control, accountability, and transparency are essential to meaningful engagement in the democratic process and a free society. I ask you to stand with your constituents by committing to support this bill.

All residents should be guaranteed an opportunity to comment on proposed surveillance technologies, and the policies constraining their use, before representatives decide whether to adopt them.

This Surveillance Technology Use and Community Safety Ordinance is the result of robust and open debate among the City’s residents, civil society organizations, and government stakeholders. This discussion began with robust conversation in the Police Review Commission, and it has continued through the Peace and Justice Commission and Disaster and Fire Safety Commission. As a result, this Ordinance represents the civil rights and civil liberties values of Berkeley. The City Council now has the opportunity to enshrine these values into local law.

The ordinance is straightforward: it requires essential community control, transparency, and accountability for all surveillance technology proposals, and it ensures the public has the opportunity to learn about the civil rights and civil liberties impact of surveillance technologies before local officials acquire them.

The power to decide whether these tools are acquired, and how they are utilized, should not stand unilaterally with agency executives. Instead, elected City Council members should be empowered with the authority to consider and responsibly approve, or reject, surveillance technology. Most importantly, all residents must be provided an opportunity to comment on proposed surveillance technologies, and the policies constraining their use, before representatives decide whether to adopt them.

Now is the time to let your City Council Members know you stand with them and the people of Berkeley in the fight to maintain the privacy and community safety the people of Berkeley deserve. Please write to the City Council and urge them to adopt the Surveillance and Community Safety Ordinance. Now.