Standing Room Only for Cambridge Surveillance Transparency Ordinance

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On Monday, November 21, Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons introduced an ordinance to require transparency and oversight of police surveillance technology. The ordinance is based on the CCOPS model which is being promoted around the country by a coalition of civil liberties groups (including Defending Rights & Dissent).

The ordinance would require that any new acquisitions of surveillance technology be approved by the city council. While this may seem like an obvious policy decision, in many communities elected officials and the public at large, are completely in the dark about what technology their local police are using. Before the city council even considers allowing police to acquire any surveillance technology, the ordinance mandates that the community be given significant involvement in the decision and the city must consider civil liberties and civil rights impacts of using such technologies.

The City Council chambers were packed, with standing room only.

Alex Marthews, representing Restore the 4th Boston sent this report:

“Last night at Cambridge City Council, twelve Cambridge residents testified on the surveillance oversight ordinance (attached), all strongly in favor of it, including former Mayor Alice Wolf and Christine Boldt, the mother of Ben and Casey Affleck. With negligible discussion, the City Council voted to send the ordinance to the City Manager, with Mayor Denise Simmons and Councilor Nadeem Mazen as sponsors. The next step will be that the City Manager will forward the ordinance to the City Solicitor’s Office, who will begin the process of reviewing and reformatting it in whatever way they deem necessary for it to be taken up by the Ordinance Committee. This can take weeks to months; then it will reappear on the City Council agenda as part of the City Manager’s Agenda, probably in January-February, and be referred to the Ordinance Committee.”

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