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Articles Tagged with SDPD

A new state law taking effect this new year will require any California city or county that uses the Stingray technology or any other cell-site simulator technology to approve and publish a usage and privacy policy.  The policies would be required amongst other things, to say who is using the equipment, how the data is retained, how the program is monitored, whether information is shared, etc.  The new law also requires this policy to be publicly available, and posted on the city or county website.

However, San Diego has not done so yet. The only thing that has been released, is a one page policy, which privacy groups say falls short of the state’s law. For example, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit group, one of the things missing from SDPD’s policy are details on their data retention plans, and clarifications on whether the SDPD plan to share their data with other departments.

What is Stingray and What Does the Law Say?

Stingray, also known as cell-site simulators, is a technology which locates a cell phone and intercepts calls and text messages. It is a hand held device that acts as a makeshift cell-phone tower.  The device(s) essentially trick cellphones into bouncing their information off the devices instead of cell towers, allowing police to rake in all of the nearby phone numbers and locations.  They also relay contact numbers.

Back in October of 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that requires police get a warrant to use a stingray during criminal investigations. The law, known as the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, would require a search warrant for the police to wiretap or access your cell phones or any digital data. The language of the statute itself is broad, and does not apply to specific technologies. This gives the law the ability to stay relevant as technology also changes.   

It should be noted that California is not the first state to legislate such a requirement. Others states that already have similar laws include Washington, Virginia, Minnesota, and Utah.

Probable Cause

Under the fourth amendment of the constitution, probable cause is required for any warrant to be issued, in order to avoid a search and seizure violation. Probable cause means that there is sufficient reason based upon the facts, that a crime has been committed. Continue reading

As I have written before, Police agencies across the country have begun outfitting officers with cameras as an attempt to regain the public’s trust. It has been shown that the San Diego Police Department’s (SDPD) use of body cameras on officers has resulted in fewer complaints from the public. However, while complaints against officers fell 23% between July 2014 and June 2015 instances of force increased 10% in the same time period, according to an SDPD report. It is not known why. Currently, 871 officers across the department wear cameras. However, the report only analyzed data from the Southeastern, Central, and Mid-City division (the only departments that have used body cameras for a full year).

Recently, the  California Western School of Law in downtown San Diego held a forum with San Diego police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, the ACLU, law students, and members of the general public on whether body camera footage should be publicly available. The SDPD takes the position that privacy issues outweigh expectations that a police agency would release footage of a controversial event, such as use of force by an officer. SDPD’s 15-page body camera policy requires officers to hit “record” when they are about to encounter a member of the public. Public access to police body-worn camera videos continues to be part of the national discussion over police use of force.

Public Records Requests

With body camera video more common either voluntarily or mandated by law, criminal defense attorneys will be able utilize the more-accessible footage to gain evidence to aid in your case.  Whether or not body camera footage will be publicly available, the California Public Records Act § 6250 et seq allows for members of the public to request records from a state agency such as a police department.

Public records in the California Public Records Act are defined as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.” Specifically, while individual’s ‘rap sheets or arrest records are exempt from disclosure due to privacy, information in the “police blotter” (e.g. time and circumstances of calls to police; name and details of arrests, warrants, charges, hearing dates, etc.) must be disclosed. While identifying data in police personnel files and misconduct complaints are exempt, disclosure may be obtained using special procedures under Evidence Code section 1043. Continue reading

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