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New Police Surveillance Technology Needs More Disclosure and Specificity

CameraDear Mayor Lee and Davis City Council Members,

We are pleased to see our new city surveillance ordinance being implemented. Last Thursday night we saw the first staff reports on surveillance technologies being used in the city. As our first attempt as a city to lead the way in public disclosure of use of surveillance technologies, we want all parties to contribute to fully meeting the spirit and requirements of the ordinance. To that end, we offer both questions and suggestions regarding the Police Department staff reports.

We are also concerned that since we do not yet have a Police Accountability Commission to review the surveillance technology staff reports, that we allow sufficient time for public review. The proposed July 31 public hearing date is less than the required 30 days. We request that the public hearing be delayed to allow at least the full 30 day review period.

For the public hearing to be productive, we believe that there are important questions about the use of surveillance technology in our city which should be more fully addressed in the staff reports. We are therefore requesting that you pull item 4.M from the July 10 consent calendar and direct staff to revise the reports to address these concerns.

For each surveillance device, the sections on “summary of experience”, “data retention” and “auditing and oversight” should include more than theoretical usage. The ordinance requires public disclosure of actual usage of each device. We believe it should include: with what frequency, under what authority (warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances), resulting charges and when data was or will be destroyed. These categories of data should be explicit. Internal auditing is insufficient.  They  must be publicly reported.

Specific technologies raised more questions. We provide some of our questions regarding two of the six surveillance technologies.

Regarding agenda item 4.M.1 “Cellebrite Universal Forensic Extraction Device (CUFED)”:

  1. Is it common for Davis PD to have a phone in their possession and decide not to seek a warrant to extract data? Please provide historical
  2. Given the broad nature of the data contained in a cell phone, what is Davis PD’s procedure for determining when they should seek a warrant to extract data from a phone?
  3. What is Davis PD’s procedure for determining and documenting if exigent circumstances justify extracting data from a cell phone without consent or a warrant?
  4. Does a typical warrant give Davis PD access to all data on a particular cell phone or are they at times restricted to only accessing particular data (e.g. location data at a specific time)?
  5. Is there a procedure in place for an individual to give Davis PD consent to access some data on a cell phone (e.g. location data at a specific time), without giving Davis PD access to the entire contents of their phone?

Regarding agenda item 4.M.5 Remote Public Safety Cameras:

  1. Are all remote cameras deployed for a specific objective and removed after that objective is completed or are at least some cameras deployed long-term and used on an at least semi- permanent basis?
  2. Do these remote cameras need to be activated to record or are they always recording?
  3. For how long are recordings from these cameras retained?
  4. Some of us have learned that after the 2015 stabbing that occurred at KetMoRee, the Yolo County DA’s office received recordings from multiple cameras that were used to track a defendant’s movements across downtown Davis.[1] Given the spontaneous nature of the stabbing, and barring an unlikely coincidence, these events strongly suggest that Davis PD is routinely surveilling substantial parts of downtown Davis. What is Davis PD’s overall capacity to access recordings of past events in downtown Davis and other parts of the city?

We hope you will agree that these requests for greater specificity and greater disclosure of actual usage ought to be answered in advance of the upcoming public hearing on surveillance technology. We respectfully request that you direct staff to do so.


Davis People Power

cc: Davis Enterprise, Davis Vanguard, Davisite


[1] For what it’s worth, the charges against this particular defendant were dropped and it is our understanding that these exterior recordings were neither incriminating nor exonerating.


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