VALLEJO – The city of Vallejo is seeking residents to serve on its newly created Surveillance Advisory Board, which is tasked with advising city council on the best practices regarding the city’s use of surveillance technology.
The council approved creation of the Surveillance Advisory Board last September amid concerns that the Vallejo Police Department was using surveillance technology without the proper oversight. The council strengthened the board’s duties and membership requirements in December after Oakland Privacy and the American Civil Liberties Union said the department wasn’t following state law.
“The Board will conduct meetings to gather public input concerning the use of surveillance technology by the City of Vallejo and seek advice and testimony from experts in the field, allowing board members to make informed recommendations to the City Council and staff,” a city press release states.
The new board will consist of seven members, each appointed by a sitting councilmember. Board members must be Vallejo residents and will serve the same term as their appointing councilmember. Board members cannot serve more than eight consecutive years. Those who serve the full eight years must take two years off before being appointed to the board again.
Members of Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams’ Chief's Advisory Board are not eligible to serve on the SAB, neither can current city employees nor their immediate family members. In addition, members of local, state or federal law enforcement are prohibited from being a board member.
The push toward creating the new board came after the city mishandled the purchase of a cell-site simulator, otherwise known as a Stingray, by not having a use policy in place before the device was bought, as required by law.
Oakland Privacy sued the city, arguing Vallejo violated state law when the council voted to acquire the cell site simulator without public input. Oakland Privacy won a preliminary ruling, which forced Vallejo to change its Stingray policy.
A cell simulator masquerades as a cell phone tower, confusing nearby cell phones, which then connect to the device instead of a cell phone tower. Law enforcement can find each phone’s unique international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) number, which is then used to track the location of the phone. Some of the devices can intercept voice and text transmissions.
Other technology the board will review includes automatic license plate readers, or ALPRs, drones, closed circuit TV cameras, gunshot detection hardware, DNA capturing technology, body-worn cameras, and biometric software, among others.
The police department was chided last April when it was revealed that members secretly used facial recognition technology which was developed by Clearview AI. BuzzFeed News discovered that Vallejo was one of more than 1,800 public agencies that had employees use or test the controversial policing tool prior to February 2020.
Applications for the Surveillance Advisory Board will be accepted through to 5 p.m., Feb. 11. The council will conduct interviews once the application period closes.
Applications can be found here. For more information or questions about the application, email City Clerk Dawn Abrahamson at Dawn.Abrahamson@cityofvallejo.net or call the city clerk’s office at (707) 648-4527.
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- Oakland Privacy
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Vallejo City Hall
- Vallejo City Council
- Shawny Williams
- Vallejo Police Department
- Clearview AI
John Glidden worked as a journalist covering the city of Vallejo for more than 10 years. He left journalism in 2023 and currently works in the office of Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown.
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