We are deeply disappointed to learn that a powerful surveillance transparency reform bill in California has died in the Assembly Appropriations committee today. S.B. 21 sought to hold police departments accountable by giving the public a voice in how law enforcement acquires and deploys new surveillance systems. The bill would have required California sheriffs, district attorneys, and state law enforcement agencies to craft surveillance use policies and hold public meetings before they acquire or use new surveillance equipment and software, as well as to publish such policies online.
Dave Maass, EFF investigative researcher, stated:
“We are in a political climate in which advocates for immigrant rights, reproductive rights, racial justice, and other social justice issues are facing increased scrutiny and pressure. Many of these groups may rightly fear police surveillance tools that are designed to safeguard the public being turned against peaceful activists engaged in First Amendment protected speech and assembly. As surveillance tools become cheaper, more widely deployed, and more sophisticated, the public has a right to know and debate what tools are being purchased and used by local police. S.B. 21 was a powerful check on police surveillance abuses, and we are disappointed that the committee failed to advance the bill. This is a blow for the privacy and civil liberties of all Californians.”
We thank everyone who spoke out in support of this bill, especially Sen. Jerry Hill and Sen. Steven Bradford. Many groups fought for this bill, including Asian Law Alliance, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California Civil Liberties Advocacy, California Public Defenders Association, Conference of California Bar Associations, Council on American-Islamic Relations California, Media Alliance, Oakland Privacy, and the San Jose Peace & Justice Center.
We look forward to working with the bill sponsors to reintroduce it in a future session.