WARWICK, RI — After hearing a number of speakers opposed to Flock Security’s traffic surveillance, the Warwick City Council voted 7-2 to approve the Warwick Police Department’s policy governing use of Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) cameras.
Councilmen Ed Ladouceur and Jeremy Rix were the sole votes against passing the ordinance outlining the policy, with a few amendments by Councilman Vinny Gebhardt.
Rix proposed a lengthy amendment proposing that officers receive training and be certified to handle the data collected by the cameras, that the City Council ratify Department Policy for the ALPR Data, and that the locations of the cameras be publicly disclosed. The amendment also sought to add protections to limit the sharing of data to only law enforcement agencies they have similar privacy protections and agreed to follow Warwick’s policies when handling Warwick’s data, and provide accountability making the ordinance enforceable.
“It doesn’t matter if we have a great policy on paper if it’s not enforceable,” Rix said in a message after the meeting.
That amendment failed on a 6-3 vote. It was supported by Councilors Ladouceur and Gebhart.
Gebhart also proposed an amendment disclosing the location of the cameras, but withdrew the proposed change. He added an amendment that limited the sharing of data to only law enforcement agencies with similar privacy protections.
But speakers at the meeting urged the Council to reject the policy as a whole.
“The more we automate, the less humans are needed on the job. I wonder if the police department has considered that possibility,” said Russell E. Gundlach, Jr. of 440 Harrington Ave.
Chris Barker, 67 Lincoln Ave., said he was opposed to the policy and the cameras on Constitutional and state law grounds. He said using the cameras violate the fourth amendment and state laws on privacy.
“And I would also have grave concerns about the data retention policy and how they would be enforced by the City of Warwick,” Barker said.
Barry Cook, 109 Namquid Drive, told members, “Many people, including myself, consider these cameras an invasion of privacy.” He said the data collected is vast and overreaching.
Hannah Stern, RIACLU policy associate, spoke at length about the shortcomings of the policy.
“The bottom line is each of these policies are far too broad and vague to meaningfully limit the expansiveness and invasive technology that this council is considering.”
“Neither the policy nor the ordinance protects the privacy of individuals , they do not provide adequate oversight over this technology. The oversight they do provide is flimsy and vague, we think. And we do think that this ordinance and this policy would still facilitate the inappropriate gathering of extreme amounts of data on all individuals who drive by these cameras on a daily basis.”
“Concerningly, neither the ordinance nor the draft policy before you exercises really any true authority over what Flock Safety itself as a private entity controlling this technology, controlling all of the data that comes through it, can do with the data,” Stern said.
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