Santa Cruz City Council Committee Advances Surveillance Oversight Ordinance

Ordinance Requires Oversight of Surveillance Technology and Specifically Bans Government Facial Recognition and Predictive Policing Software

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SANTA CRUZ – On Wednesday, the Santa Cruz Public Safety Committee voted to approve a Surveillance Technology Ordinance that would prevent the government from using any surveillance technology without public debate, clear use policies, and mechanisms of oversight and accountability. The law also prohibits government use of facial recognition, and in what would be a national first, bans government use of predictive policing technology as well.

Introduced by Mayor Justin Cummings, with broad support from a coalition of civil rights and racial justice organizations, the ordinance mirrored legislation already passed by many of Santa Cruz’s neighbors, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Davis, Santa Clara County, and Palo Alto.

“When surveillance technology is secretly deployed, it makes communities less safe, less free, and sets in motion painful cycles of discrimination and profiling,” said Matt Cagle, Technology and Civil Liberties Attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “With this ordinance, Santa Cruz will set a new course using a tried and tested framework based on inclusivity and community consent.”

Three of those cities - San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley - have also banned facial recognition as part of their surveillance oversight laws, citing concerns about the devastating effect this technology would have on privacy, activism, freedom of expression, and communities of color who are already over-policed, over-surveilled, and over-incarcerated. Similar concerns have been raised about predictive policing software, which has been proven to magnify existing racial disparities in the criminal legal system.

 “We applaud Mayor Cummings for his thoughtful and visionary leadership,” said Raquel Ortega, Organizer at the ACLU of Northern California. “Face recognition and predictive policing software are dangerous, racially biased technologies that will bring real harm to the many communities that call Santa Cruz home.”

The ordinance will now advance to the full City Council for a likely vote in April.

This ordinance is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, American Friends Service Committee, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, CAIR California, the Campaign for Sustainable Transportation, Santa Cruz, Center for Media Justice, Coalition for Police Accountability, Code Pink,  Color of Change, Courage Campaign, Courage to Resist, Defending Dissent, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, End Solitary Santa Cruz County, Friends of Juristac, the Greenlining Institute, Jewish Voice for Peace Santa Cruz Chapter, Media Alliance, the NAACP Santa Cruz Chapter, National Lawyers Guild – Committee on Democratic Communications, Oakland Privacy, Off Now, Resource Center for Nonviolence Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Climate Action Network, Secure Justice, Restore the 4th – Bay Area, Tenth Amendment Center, TURN – The Utility Reform Network, University of California at Santa Cruz Graduate Student Association Council, Veterans for Peace – Santa Cruz and East Bay chapters, and the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.

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