- The New York City Council passed legislation on Thursday forcing the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to disclose the technology it uses, how it uses such technology and any processes in place to prevent disparate impacts based on race, religion and other factors. The bill passed by a 44-6 margin as part of a legislative package related to police practices. Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would sign it.
- The Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act was first introduced in 2017, but has garnered renewed interest in recent weeks. NYPD would be required to issue an impact report on every technology it uses, including drones, license plate readers and stingray trackers, with details on its use. That report, known as a surveillance impact and use policy, would then be audited by the NYPD’s Inspector General.
- Council Member Vanessa Gibson, who sponsored the POST Act, said the legislation would create a balance between protecting New Yorkers' civil liberties and privacy, and keeping the public safe. She said this bill — as well as a slew of other measures, including a ban on chokeholds and mandates for NYPD officers to have their shield numbers and rank designations be visible — is just the start. "This legislation is the floor and not the ceiling," Gibson said during the council's debate on the bills.
Gibson said New York joins a number of other cities with similar laws in place to govern transparency around local police's use of technology, including San Francisco; Nashville, TN; Seattle; and Detroit. And it comes amid intensifying focus on various policing policies, particularly in how the use of force and the role of technology in surveillance impacts marginalized communities.
Before the vote, Gibson said the recent protests against systemic racism and the legislation proposed or adopted nationally in response represent a "very bold step forward in recognizing that a sleeping nation has finally woke up following the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis."
Last week, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon all said they would curb the sale of their facial recognition technology to law enforcement, while the Detroit City Council is coming under pressure from civil liberties groups to oppose the renewal of its facial recognition contract. Gibson said as methods of policing have evolved to embrace innovation, residents must be protected.
"In a time where technology is constantly evolving, we believe that it's a necessary tool to protect New Yorkers, to make sure that we are all safe, but also for us to understand what safeguards are in place that are being used in our very own communities," Gibson said during a press conference before the council meeting.
But the POST Act has not been without its opponents. Council Member Chaim Deutsch, who voted no on the measure, said during the meeting that it could endanger the lives of undercover officers, especially those involved in counterterrorism operations.
That echoed an opinion piece for the New York Daily News, written by Guardian Association of the NYPD President Felicia Richards and NYPD Hispanic Society President Larry Fuchs, which was shared by the NYPD's official Twitter account during the vote. The piece said the POST Act means the department "must essentially publicly advertise all devices, including those used by undercover officers," placing many in danger.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the entire package of legislation would enhance "accountability and transparency" at the NYPD, while Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said it was part of an "overarching conversation” on “redefining what public safety is."