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Vallejo’s new surveillance advisory board to meet April 21

  •   2 min reads
Vallejo’s new surveillance advisory board to meet April 21
An Automated License Plate Reader in Vallejo.

VALLEJO – Vallejo's newly created surveillance advisory board — tasked with monitoring the city’s use and possible purchase of surveillance technology — is scheduled to hold its inaugural meeting April 21.

The seven-person board is set to select a chair and vice chair to serve from April  to March 2023. There are no action items scheduled on the agenda.

Michael McMillan, Phillip Balbuena, Brooke Redelle, Andrea Sorce, Naomi Yun, Adam Bregenzer, and Lisa Chen were appointed to serve on the board during the March 8 council meeting. Naveed Ashraf, the city’s chief innovation officer and information technology director, has been tapped to serve as executive secretary to the board.

The council created the board last September following a push from the local American Civil Liberties Union  (ACLU) chapter and Oakland Privacy, as both expressed concerns with a lack of oversight for use of surveillance technology in the city.

The newly created board is tasked with advising the Vallejo City Council on best practices for protecting the privacy, safety, and civil rights of residents when the city chooses to use  surveillance technology.

Oakland Privacy even sued the city, arguing Vallejo had violated state law when the city council voted to acquire a cell site simulator, more commonly known as a Stingray, without public input. A judge’s ruling in the suit forced Vallejo to change its Stingray policy.

A cell simulator masquerades as a cell phone tower, confusing nearby phones, which then connect to the device instead of a cell tower. Law enforcement can then track the location of the phone. Some of the devices can intercept voice and text transmissions.

The city council approved purchase of the $766,018 cell-site simulator from KeyE Corporation in March 2020.

“This technology, for a short-staffed police department, is a force multiplier that will help us for crime reduction,” Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams said at the time.

The board will have power to review the city’s use of automated license plate readers, drones, closed circuit TV cameras, gunshot detection technology, body cameras, biometric software, and technology that can collect a sample of a person’s DNA, among others.

The term for each board member will run concurrently with the term of the appointing councilmember.

The Surveillance Advisory Board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m., April 21, inside the Vallejo City Hall Council Chambers, 555 Santa Clara St. The meeting will also be livestreamed on the city’s webpage and Zoom account.

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