NYC Council to vote on POST, plans civilian oversight of police surveillance

NYC Council to vote on POST, plans civilian oversight of police surveillance

Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the subcommittee on Capital Budget, have announced that the New York City would vote on the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act on June 18.

The bill would require the New York Police Department to make public, information on its surveillance technology tools and to come up with policies on its uses of those tools.

The bill would similarly require the NYPD to provide an annual oversight on the use of surveillance technology to make sure NYPD’s comply with those policies.

The legislation over the bill was born out of concerns raised by civil rights and civil liberties groups over the lack of oversight of the NYPD's use of surveillance tools on the public. 

Feedback from the groups revealed that despite the fact that NYPD can access cell site simulators to capture cell phone information, facial recognition technology, license plate readers and X-ray vans, there has not been sufficient public information on how it manages its collection of private information, and that there is no ways the public could know other surveillance tools the NYPD uses.

The bill also includes other police reform bills such as one that makes use of chokeholds a crime for the police, the one that requires the NYPD to use disciplinary matrix and the other that prohibits hiding badge numbers by the police officers.

Speaking about the significance of the bill, Corey Johnson, Council Speaker said, "New Yorkers deserve to know the type of surveillance that the NYPD uses and its impacts on communities. 

"Thanks to the POST Act, the department will finally begin disclosing information that has long been kept from the public. I want to thank my friend and colleague Council Member Vanessa Gibson for her leadership and commitment on this police reform bill." 

Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Budget, said that the decision to move forward with a vote on the bill was a tremendous win for all members who have put in their efforts to make sure that the bill is passed.

“New York City will join several cities across the country that require their police department to disclose their use of surveillance technology to ensure oversight and transparency. 

"Residents are demanding more from law enforcement and their elected officials to protect the civil rights of all New Yorkers, specifically Black and Brown communities, and I believe this bill is a step in the right direction towards ensuring accountability,” said Gibson.

Speaking about the need to protect civil liberties in New York, Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, said there was a huge need for the state to adapt to the vast growing technology to safeguard and protect New Yorkers.

"In 2020, technology is developing faster than ever before and we need to be able to adapt just as quickly to ensure that there are regulations and safeguards to protect our civil liberties.

"I am proud to pass the POST Act knowing that while Big Brother is watching us, we are watching Big Brother," he said.

Albert Fox Cahn, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director expressed appreciation to City Council Members who supported the legislation that seeks NYPD reform.

"We're grateful to Vanessa Gibson for sponsoring this vital legislation and to the overwhelming majority of City Council Members who stand with us in fighting for NYPD reform, said Cahn.

"Today, NYPD surveillance often is no better than digitized stop-and-frisk. These programs are biased, broken, and deeply damaging to a democratic society. 

"At a time when more than a dozen cities have enacted surveillance reforms that are far stronger than the POST Act, the NYPD can't give one good reason to oppose this modest transparency reform," he added.