SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The San Francisco Police Department will have to wait at least until September to find out if it can access private security cameras for investigations. The city’s board of supervisors was initially scheduled to discuss the proposal at its meeting Tuesday night, but the discussion is still with the rules committee.
An attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation told KRON4 they’ve had people reach out to them concerned about this ordinance. Police argue it could help solve and prevent crimes.
“These cameras include everything from doorbell cameras that people have on their apartments and homes, include cameras that shop owners have and they include networks of hundreds of cameras that business districts throughout the city that have set up,” said Mukund Rathi, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
San Francisco police and Mayor London Breed proposed the ordinance. Police Chief Bill Scott believes these privately owned cameras could help patrol officers, since the department is short-staffed.
“It would allow police to access these both in real time and to access large amounts of historical footage,” he said.
Chief Scott says live footage would be sought only during specific police operations arranged with prior approval. But Rathi says police would be overstepping and it’s unnecessary.
“We think that it’s a serious invasion of our privacy and civil liberties,” Rathi said. “We think it will seriously harm and further increase policing and incarceration… There’s been very little specific examples of how getting live access to a camera that faces the street would actually help the police solve these problems any more than the tools that they have.”
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors held public comment on the ordinance Monday. Rathi says people were vocal, with more than 40 members of the community expressing their opposition to the policy.
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Rathi shared what he will do if the ordinance does pass. “We’re going to look very closely at how the police use this live monitoring. What kind of damage it causes. Any increase in distrust, any misuse of the systems.”
The clerk of the board says the rules committee will discuss the surveillance cameras ordinance on September 12 and decide whether it will be brought to the board for a vote.