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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Oakland's Police Are Doing With Their Federally Funded Surveillance Equipment

Posted by on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Seattle's police department isn't the only one that has received millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security for a "port security" grant and riled up the public by quietly spending it on citywide surveillance technology. (Or, depending on who's talking, equipment that might have surveillance capabilities that police promise that they'd never abuse.)

Oakland got even more from DHS than we did—$10.9 million to Seattle's $7 million—and a story in today's East Bay Express claims that "internal documents reveal that city staffers are also focused on tracking political protesters."

The reporters sifted through a mound of email correspondence they got via a public records request:

While the emails reveal a great deal about the DAC ["Domain Awareness Center"], they are also notable for what they do not talk about. Among the hundreds of messages sent and received by Oakland staffers and the city's contractor team responsible for building the DAC, there is no mention of robberies, shootings, or the 138 homicides that took place during the period of time covered by the records. City staffers do not discuss any studies pertaining to the use of surveillance cameras in combating crime, nor do they discuss how the Domain Awareness System could help OPD with its longstanding problems with solving violent crimes. In more than 3,000 pages of emails, the terms "murder," "homicide," "assault," "robbery," and "theft" are never mentioned...

Law enforcement surveillance (both federal and local) of demonstrators has been a constant in Oakland since the killing of Oscar Grant in 2009 sparked chaotic street demonstrations. Police infiltrated organizing meetings, sent undercover officers to mingle in crowds during several demonstrations, and recorded the protests with multiple video teams. Police took a similar approach during Occupy Oakland. Police also compiled yearbook-style photo dossiers of prominent demonstrators, regardless of whether they had committed a crime or not...

Public records show that city staffers are interested in using the DAC to monitor political protests. This aspect of the DAC first became public in August when Renee Domingo, director of Oakland's Emergency Management Services Division and the head of the DAC project team, published an article in the government trade publication Public CEO justifying the need for the surveillance hub. "Oakland's long history of civil discourse and protest adds to the need [for the Domain Awareness Center]," Domingo wrote. "The Oakland Emergency Operations Center has been partially or fully activated more than 30 times in the past three years to respond to large demonstrations and protests."

It looks like Oakland's DAC and the city employees who support it are much more worried about Occupy and May Day than assault and murder.


Comments (4) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
They also use them to track black people

No, seriously
Posted by Will in Seattle on December 18, 2013 at 1:46 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 2
"In more than 3,000 pages of emails, the terms "murder," "homicide," "assault," "robbery," and "theft" are never mentioned..."

THAT is kind of impressive. Disturbing, but impressive.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on December 18, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
watchout5 3
Someone just fired their gun in drug related violence? Sorry community, there's someone who has moderate anti-government views so we're going to stalk them until they get the right message about this government. We're going to use government goons to follow them everywhere they go, attach themselves to their phone, figure out their friends, hunt them down and make sure that any action they take in this world will be heavily monitored by dozens of people who want nothing more than to silence every part of your being. Oh and threaten their family with the exact same thing, and find bullshit charges to bring you in on.

But yeah, that gun murder thing, we'll, see what we can do. If we have any time, we are after all, quite important.
Posted by watchout5 on December 18, 2013 at 2:48 PM · Report this
fletc3her 4
Every major city got these grants and dozens more like them. The grants are driven not by the needs of local police forces, but by the ability of military contractors to sell the need for the equipment to DHS. After the initial round of training and installation there is a strong likelihood that much of this equipment will be unused, expired, or out-of-date within a few years. There is no local money for ongoing maintenance and training. Our police force doesn't even seem to know what they've installed yet, let alone in a couple years.

These grants represent billions of dollars spent to companies owned by political donors for no public benefit.
Posted by fletc3her on December 18, 2013 at 3:26 PM · Report this

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