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First Municipal Ban on Predictive Policing in Santa Cruz
On June 23, the Santa Cruz City Council voted 7-0 to ban the municipal use of predictive policing software and facial recognition technology in the central coast city. Santa Cruz becomes the eighth city to ban the use of facial recognition, joining San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley and the MA cities of Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline and Northampton, and the first city to ban predictive software.
The bans were introduced by Santa Cruz mayor Justin Cummings, the first Black mayor in Santa Cruz history, after he participated on a panel on surveillance and facial recognition held by the Santa Cruz chapter of the ACLU at the Resource Center for Non-Violence last year. Mayor Cummings commented to Reuters:
"We have technology that could target people of color in our community - it's technology we don't need. This is something that targets people like me".
Santa Cruz police chief Andrew Mills supported the ordinance that put both bans into place and added:
"I don't want to be in a place where we are targeting people of color based on a computer system."
The predictive policing and facial recognition bans, which were navigated with the city by Oakland Privacy and the ACLU of Northern California, come in the wake of nationwide protests of racist policing practices following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and a heated strike by graduate teaching assistants at the University of California at Santa Cruz for cost of living increases. It was later revealed that the UCSC protests were heavily surveilled by the UC Police, with assistance from Cal-OES and the National Guard.
Tracy Rosenberg, advocacy director at Oakland Privacy commented:
"All over the country, people are calling for transformational changes in how policing is done. Walking away from intrusive and invasive surveillance technologies that have never been free of racial bias is one big step on that road."
Santa Cruz's rejection of predictive policing technology comes after the city was one of the first adopters of the technology with industry leader Predpol headquartered in Santa Cruz and some former members of local government working with the company.
The City intends to add transparency and reporting requirements for the use of all other surveillance tech and equipment later this year.
Oakland Privacy is a citizens’ coalition that works regionally to defend the right to privacy and enhance public transparency and oversight regarding the use of surveillance techniques and equipment. It was instrumental in the creation of the first standing municipal citizens’ privacy advisory commission in the City of Oakland, and has engaged in privacy enhancing legislative efforts with several Northern California cities and regional entities. As experts on municipal privacy reform, OP written use policies and impact reports for a variety of surveillance technologies, conducted research and investigations, and developed frameworks for the implementation of equipment with respect for civil rights, privacy protections and community control.