San Diego Police Department

San Diego Police Reveals List of What Surveillance Technology Tools it Uses

SDPD must first get public input on the devices, be reviewed by the city's privacy advisory board, then City Council will consider the technology

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If you've ever wondered what spy technology the San Diego Police Department uses to help solve crimes, now is your chance to find out.

The department published a list on Thursday of surveillance technologies it already uses or wishes to use this year.

The list includes everything from body-worn cameras to drones. Also listed are several databases regularly used by officers to help identify and track data of suspects, 911 calls and evidence.

If you’re investigated by SDPD, chances are there is a recording of some sort with you in it. Maybe it’s your image on a body-worn camera, a security camera, your voice or personal information.

“We always have to be asking of any surveillance technology: Why is it there, who is it watching, who are the watchers?” said Seth Hall, member of the Trust San Diego Coalition.

The coalition keeps a close eye on what all city government departments are keeping their eyes on and what surveillance technology is being used to see it.

“It's important that we know that they are there. That the department explains what they are doing with them [and] why they have them,“ Hall said.

Surveillance Technology Programs SDPD Uses

The list includes 75 surveillance technologies SDPD uses to investigate criminal activity, per the city's Transparent and Responsible Use of Surveillance Technology Ordinance passed last year.  

The list includes software such as “OffenderWatch," which the department uses to track sex offenders and arson registrants and "NightHawk," which is used to analyze large databases of digital data as well. Also included is a wide range of recording devices including body-worn cameras, motion-activated trail cameras and drones manufactured by China-based company DJI.

“It is well-documented to be connected to the Chinese military. There is a concern there about what is happening with the data that is coming into these drones,“ Hall said.

Hall is also taking issue with the new smart street light cameras program, that is not yet installed and currently under review by the city’s privacy advisory board. The original program was mothballed after privacy complaints.

Input From San Diego Residents

The difference between then and now?

“They’ll get their fair hearing and the citizens of San Diego can raise their voices now because they have a seat at the table," Hall said.

The San Diego Police Department must first get public input on each of these devices and produce use-policy reports. Each are then reviewed by the city’s privacy advisory board before they’re considered for approval at council.

The department is under a strict deadline. Council must decide whether to approve these surveillance tools by September.

"It is important we receive feedback from the community regarding the use policies so the feedback can then be analyzed and changes be made, if necessary, so updates can be made in advance of that deadline," said Ashley Bailey a spokesperson for SDPD.

SDPD soon expects to announce details of when public hearings will be held to outline the policies in place for each of the 75 items.

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