For the second year in a row, the California State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee has effectively killed a bill that was poised to ensure transparency, community oversight, and civil liberties regarding proliferating police surveillance technology.
S.B. 1186 was approved by the California Senate, as well as by two Assembly policy committees. Despite that momentum, the bill stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego. The bill needed to be voted on by committee members by August 17 in order to move to a floor vote, but was instead indefinitely placed on a “suspense calendar” without the committee ever voting.
Like S.B. 21 in the 2017 session, S.B. 1186 was a straightforward measure that would have simply required police to respect public oversight before gaining access to powerful surveillance technology. S.B. 1186 differed from its predecessor in that it did not require annual transparency reports, a compromise accepted by the author, Sen. Jerry Hill, that should have alleviated the Appropriation Committee’s fiscal concerns.
The measure was supported by more than three dozen organizations, representing civil liberties non-profits, community groups, immigrants’ rights advocates, and legal services organizations. San Diego-based groups in the Electronic Frontier Alliance, such as TECHLead, met with and reached out to Gonzalez Fletcher to urge her to prioritize S.B. 1186. Despite this groundswell, the Assembly Appropriations committee acquiesced to the powerful law enforcement lobby, which routinely objects to even the most basic oversight mechanisms.
EFF remains committed to empowering communities to make their own decisions about surveillance and civil liberties. We continue to support A.B. 3131, a separate measure pending before the state Assembly that will create a process for community oversight of police militarization, including some (but not all) of the police surveillance tools that S.B. 1186 would have addressed. It will be among the subjects of grassroots lobbying today, when our allies at the ACLU will co-host a grassroots lobby day in Sacramento alongside Indivisible.
We also anticipate more municipalities and counties joining Oakland, Berkeley, Davis, and Santa Clara County over the next year by enacting local measures to enable public oversight of all local police surveillance tech. Together, we will continue to build the case for statewide reform and also pave the road for long overdue reform in Washington.
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Author: Shahid Buttar