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This is the list of surveillance tools the San Diego police uses

By Loukia Papadopoulos,

A body camera.

Spy technology is all around us and its users are not usually transparent about it. This is not the case of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) which Thursday published a list of surveillance technologies it already uses or hopes to use in 2023.

This is according to a post on the City of San Diego website.

The list is three pages long and includes everything from body-worn cameras to drones, as well as several databases regularly used by officers to help identify and track data of suspects, 911 calls, and evidence.

Officials told NBC San Diego they take surveillance very seriously and work hard not to infringe on civilians’ rights.

“We always have to be asking of any surveillance technology - why is it there, who is it watching, who are the watchers,” said Seth Hall, member of the Trust San Diego Coalition.

The coalition is responsible for monitoring what city government departments are keeping their eyes on and what surveillance technology is being used to see it.

“It's important that we know that they are there. That the department explains what they are doing with them [and] why they have them,“ Hall added.

The new list of SDPD’s 75 surveillance technologies is in line with the city's Transparent and Responsible Use of Surveillance Technology Ordinance passed last year.

Most noteworthy are software such as “OffenderWatch," which tracks sex offenders and arson registrants and a wide variety of recording devices including motion activated trail cameras as well as drones manufactured by Chinese-based company DJI. In the case of these last items, their source could be problematic.

“It is well documented to be connected to the Chinese military. There is a concern there about what is happening with the data that is coming into these drones,“ Hall explained.

Hall is also concerned with the new smart street light cameras program currently under review by the city’s privacy advisory board due to privacy complaints. Hall said civilians will get their chance to have their issues with the new initiative heard.

“They’ll get their fair hearing and the citizens of San Diego can raise their voices now because they have a seat at the table, “ Hall said.

A strict procedure

The city has a detailed procedure in place for getting new surveillance tools approved especially if they infringe on citizens’ privacy.

The San Diego Police department must first acquire public input on each of these new devices and submit policy reports highlighting how they aim to implement the technology. These are then reviewed by the city’s privacy advisory board before they reach the eyes of the council for final approval.

Council has until September to decide whether to approve these latest surveillance tools or reject them.

"It is important we receive feedback from the community regarding the use policies so the feedback can then be analyzed and changes be made, if necessary, so updates can be made in advance of that deadline," told NBC San Diego Ashley Bailey, a spokesperson for SDPD.

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