ACLU Advises Focusing For Spokane Surveillance Ordinance

By Paige Browning

Spokane’s city council has a crowded agenda for Monday night, which includes a hearing on drones and surveillance. Already, civil liberties advocates endorse the idea, but call for more.
Council President Ben Stuckart has proposed an ordinance to require that city departments, including police, get approval from the city council before deploying drones. It would mandate that operators explain reasoning for the surveillance, how long data will be stored, and who will have access to the data. Stuckart says the Seattle City Council has received complaints about municipal drone usage.

Stuckart: “And I didn’t want that to happen in Spokane and so I moved fast to put protections for the public in place right away.”

But Thursday the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington sent a letter to council members saying the ordinance doesn’t go far enough. Technology and Liberty Director Jamela Debelak says the idea is a great one, but key pieces of surveillance equipment are intentionally exempt from regulation.

Debelak: “It excludes cameras that are attached to police cars, cameras that are attached to public buildings. Cameras that are used for traffic or attached to bridges for traffic purposes.”
Stuckart says he spoke with the ACLU and explained council will likely not make changes, for now. He has vetted this ordinance through neighborhood representatives, the public safety committee, police chief, and mayor.

Stuckart: “So, as we know, politics is the art of compromise. Bringing these changes in at the last minute, we would have to go back out for a couple months.”
Council holds a public hearing on the surveillance ordinance in their 6:00 meeting on Monday.
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