Under an ordinance given first passage earlier this month and coming up for second passage on Oct. 17, the Warwick Police Department’s use of ALPR (automated license plate recognition …
Under an ordinance given first passage earlier this month and coming up for second passage on Oct. 17, the Warwick Police Department’s use of ALPR (automated license plate recognition technology) will be subject to a number of restrictions aimed at protecting privacy rights without hampering the department’s ability to fight crime and assist in locating lost persons.
The ordinance comes in response to the department’s intent to lease 10 Flock System cameras that will provide live time information on the whereabouts of vehicles based on their license plates. The cameras are being used in Cranston and other Rhode Island communities to locate stolen cars and in pinpointing the times and locations of vehicles that have proven helpful in solving crimes as well as in non-criminal situations such as someone who has Alzheimer’s and has left home with the family car.
Concerns raised by members of the City Council ranged from use of the technology in conjunction with facial, voice, iris or other technologies to federal immigration enforcement and sale of sharing of the data with third parties. The ordinance specially prohibits use of the technology for those proposes in addition for the cameras to be used to photograph, record or produce images of occupants of motor vehicles, pedestrians or passersby.
Even so, Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix and Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur don’t believe the ordinance goes far enough in limiting department use of the cameras and protecting identity rights.
As City Council President Steve McAllister sees it, the department’s role is setting policy that adheres to the framework of the ordinance and it’s not up to the council to plan for multitude of “what if” scenarios.
McAllister thinks the department has a good policy in place and steered the council away from nitpicking.
“I didn’t want the council writing policy,” he said last week.
Power of the purse
He reasons “the power of the council is the power of the purse.” If the council decides the department’s policy doesn’t go far enough, then they can vote to deny leasing the cameras for two years from Flock Safety System.
“If they don’t agree they can say ‘no’ to ten cameras,” McAllister said.
The eight page policy spells out how the cameras are to be used as well as prohibits personal use of the data by members of the force. It reads, “Anyone who engages in an impermissible use of the ALPR system or associated scan files, or hot lists may be subject to criminal prosecution, civil liability, and/or administrative sanctions pursuant to and consistent with the collective bargaining agreement and department policies.”
The policy also states that Flock Safety will store the data and ensure its proper maintenance and security. Flock is to purge the data at the end of 30 days of storage although this doesn’t preclude the department from maintaining any relevant vehicle data obtained from the system after that period.
‘Sit tight,’ says Ladouceur
“We’re lacking control over whatever information these things are collecting,” Ladouceur said Monday. “Who’s going to have access?” Ladouceur said he has talked with Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr. who he said plans to introduce legislation to regulate information gathered by the cameras.
“We need to sit tight until the General Assembly sets the guidelines,” he said.
Rix has concerns over the safeguards and sharing of information. Although Flock would delete information after 30 days, he questioned what would happen to information downloaded by third parties prior to the 30 days.
“Once it’s out there; it’s out there,” he said.
He’s also troubled that the data can be used to record where people are going.
Flock Safety, will store the data (data hosting) and ensure proper maintenance and security of data stored in their data towers. Flock Safety will purge their data at the end of the 30 days of storage. However, this will not preclude WPD from maintaining any relevant vehicle data obtained from the system after that period pursuant to the established City of Warwick retention schedule mentioned above or outlined elsewhere. d. Information gathered or collected, and records retained by Flock Safety cameras or any other WPD ALPR system will not be sold, accessed or used for any purpose other than legitimate law enforcement or public safety purposes.
The City plans to lease the system for $2,500 per camera, per year plus a $250 one-time implementation fee. Included in this fee is the camera hardware: ALPR unit, solar or DC power, mounting equipment and maintenance warrantee. Also included is the hosting and analytics: cloud hosting, unlimited user licenses, hot list integration & alerts and ongoing software enhancements. The company offers a 45 day PPI or Project Prove It trial. If after the 45 days after installation the city is not satisfied, Flock will remove the cameras at no cost.
Flock Safety requires a two year contract which would result in costs of $52,500 for 10 cameras; $27,500 being paid in year one and $25,000 being paid in year two.
Col. Bradford Connor said the funding would be allocated from the Federal Asset Forfeiture fund.