By JOHN HOWELL
Col. Braford Connor believes Flock Safety Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs), commonly referred to as license plate cameras, would dramatically enhance the department’s …
By JOHN HOWELL
Col. Braford Connor believes Flock Safety Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs), commonly referred to as license plate cameras, would dramatically enhance the department’s ability to track down stolen vehicles, apprehend suspects, find missing persons and locate mentally impaired or people or people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Mayor Frank Picozzi also favors use of the cameras and thinks they will assist Warwick Police as they have proven to do for other departments. But Picozzi is opposed to efforts of the City Council to regulate use of the cameras through an ordinance as was the case Monday night.
“It’s an administrative function,” Picozzi said of how the cameras should be used. He questioned what might come next. “Would the council legislate when to plow the roads?”
“They’re stepping out of their lane here,” he said.
Picozzi added he would veto an ordinance if it got into regulating police policies. “I trust my police department.”
For as much as Warwick Police get high ratings in the opinion of Rob Cote, who spoke at Monday’s council meeting, he questions whether the technology could fall in the hands of criminals. With information on the location of vehicles, he pointed out criminals with a bit of research could target when to pull of a home break.
“I don’t know if we need it (the cameras),” he said.
Warwick resident and professor at the Naval War College, Marc Genest, questioned the potential of the cameras eroding freedoms as has happened in other countries. The same issue has been raised by the ACLU that is opposed to use of the cameras.
Connor counters that the department has policies that would have to be approved by the Board of Public Safety and adhered to by department personnel. In a January letter to the purchasing department recommending the lease of 10 cameras for two years, Connor writes, “The technology captures still photographs of license plates and vehicle characteristics as they travel on public roads. The cameras do not independently record people or faces but can be used to solve and reduce violent and property crimes. The cameras will never be used for traffic enforcement, as they cannot track speed or identify unregistered or uninsured vehicles. They capture objective evidence in plain sight, such as license plates, and can never be used for facial recognition.”
Introduced by Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi, the ordinance says the cameras would not be used in conjunction with facial, voice, iris or other recognition technologies which may identify biometric information; for the purpose of photographing, recording or producing images of occupants of motor vehicles, pedestrians, or passersby or for recording or otherwise capturing audio.
Additionally, the ordinance would prohibit use of the cameras for motor vehicle code enforcement and federal immigration enforcement and that data collected the ALPR technology system shall not be sold or shared with any third-party individuals or entities, excluding law enforcement agencies.
As written, Picozzi said he supports Sinapi’s ordinance. It was when council members started adding amendments that the mayor thought they were delving into policies best left to the department. He considers the cameras “a law enforcement tool” that members of the legislative branch of government “should be involved with at all.”
Connor doesn’t have a problem with the Sinapi ordinance and sees it as legislative oversight as suggested by the ACLU. He said department policy on data produced by the cameras would be posted on the department website once approved by the board of public safety.
Connor is proposing the department lease the cameras for two years at a cost of $52,500.
Several amendments to the ordinance, yet the council was unable to reach a consensus and a vote was postponed until Sept. 18.
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