The Vallejo City Council finalized the approval of the use and privacy guidelines surrounding the controversial "stingray" cell site simulator technology that the department purchased for $766,018.
(TNS) — The Vallejo, Calif., City Council finalized Tuesday the approval of the use and privacy guidelines surrounding the controversial "stingray" cell site simulator technology that the department purchased for $766,018. The device and is used to apprehend people by honing in on cellphone signals.
The simulators mimic cell phone towers and allow law enforcement to locate suspects, missing persons, or other people involved in exigent circumstances, they say.
The use of such surveillance raised some concerns for some in the community as well as privacy groups such as the
Privacy hawks were concerned that the simulator could violate people's Fourth Amendment rights if the machines picked up information from people indiscriminately.
Oakland Privacy filed the suit in May of this year asking the court to block the purchase and use of the equipment and demanded a longer time for public review. The council originally was set to discuss the subject twice in October and then, after outcry, moved the discussion to Tuesday night.
Several people have called into the public comment portions of council meetings to express their distrust in the device and especially their distrust in the police department's judicious use of it. Many people fear that it will be used as some sort of "Big Brother" spying device or by nefarious officers with vendettas.
As the approved policy stands, none of those things seem likely. According to the police department, the simulator doesn't even have the technical capability to be that intrusive.
Still, privacy advocates worked alongside the police and city to ensure that only lawful and ethical applications of the stingray will be used.
Assistant City Attorney
"A policy is only as strong as the department's adherence to it," she said during the public comment portion of the council meeting.
The updated policy outlines greater public transparency through quarterly log reports and, hopefully, review from the supposedly forthcoming citizens review board for the police department.
Rosenberg told the
First, she asked — will there indeed be a citizens oversight group created by the city? Second, are officers using the equipment that have themselves shot and killed people in the line of duty? So far Williams has not revealed which officers have access to the technology.
Finally, Rosenberg says she has some concerns about the frequency of the stingray's use. For example, she says, the city of
According to Neighborhood Scout, people in
The first quarterly log is due out momentarily, police say, and the community will have the opportunity to see how the stingray has been used. The report will only show closed cases, Williams said.
Councilmembers all expressed their gratitude to the
"Chief, this is technology that we need," said Mayor
(c)2020 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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