San Francisco police will have access to non-city security cameras to aid in their crime-fighting efforts.
The Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday by a 7-4 vote an ordinance that, as described in a press release from Mayor London Breed, “will explicitly clarify and authorize law enforcement to temporarily use cameras not owned by to respond to the challenges presented by organized criminal activity, homicides, gun violence, officer misconduct, among other crimes, while strengthening critical safeguards and oversight to prevent misuse.”
The announcement noted that the ordinance has been in the works for several months by the mayor’s office and Supervisor Aaron Peskin while working closely with the San Francisco Police Department.
Ahead of the board’s vote, more than two dozen organizations Tuesday called on supervisors to reject the ordinance, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.
The ACLU said the ordinance “allows for a level of surveillance unprecedented in the city’s history, turning personal doorbell cameras and CCTV into devices that would allow police to place entire neighborhood blocks under preventive surveillance and spy on constitutionally protected speech.” .
The San Francisco Police Department sent a statement of support following the board’s vote.
“This policy reaffirms our commitment to engaging in transparent and responsive policing while protecting the rights of all who make up the diverse community we serve,” police said.
According to the mayor’s office, the new policy would allow law enforcement to request temporary access for no more than 24 hours to non-city-owned cameras to view real-time activity only under the following circumstances:
- In situations involving imminent danger of death or imminent danger of serious physical injury;
- During significant events with public safety concerns for the sole purpose of deploying or stationing personnel; either
- Advance investigations specific to criminal activity
This includes, according to the mayor’s announcement, “third-party-owned security cameras that are under no contractual or other obligation to share footage with law enforcement that have been installed by non-city owners or operators outside of small businesses, residential buildings, and other commercial buildings.
The ordinance would override local laws that generally prohibit law enforcement from accessing live video footage from cameras not owned by the city in any situation other than situations involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury.
The mayor’s announcement assured that the new ordinance contains significant safeguards, including “restrictions on how cameras can be used; how long they can be used; rules for data retention and deletion; continuing bar against use of facial recognition technology; prohibit any live monitoring inside residential dwellings; prohibit any live broadcast during First Amendment activities for reasons other than redistribution needs; and mandatory training before any authorized person may use any technology.”