Senator Hill Renews Push for Police Gun Tracking and Transparency for Surveillance Technology

February 15, 2018

For Immediate Release – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – February 15, 2018

State Senator Jerry Hill Renews Push to Require Police to Keep Close Tabs on Firearms and Shed Light on Use of Surveillance Technology

SACRAMENTO – Amid mounting concerns about stolen and lost police guns and the use of surveillance technology and the data it harvests, state Senator Jerry Hill introduced legislation today to require police to track and regularly inventory their firearms and to draw up rules on deployment of surveillance technology.

“These bills will bring greater accountability to police firearm security and transparency to the use of surveillance technology as a crime-fighting tool,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “I look forward to working with law enforcement and my colleagues in the Legislature to enable greater oversight in these areas. Both have been the focus of growing public scrutiny and concerns, creating a stronger path for progress this year.”

The introduction today of SB 1185 on law enforcement firearm security and SB 1186 on policy for surveillance technology marks the second time the senator has proposed legislation addressing the issues. SB 21 on surveillance technology and SB 22 on police firearm tracking, both 2017 bills, did not survive the legislative process last year.

Current law does not require law enforcement agencies to periodically inventory their firearms. The agencies must report firearms acquisitions within 10 days to the state Department of Justice and must report guns that are destroyed or disposed of in some way. But there is no agency requirement to report lost, stolen or missing guns, although law enforcement officers must report a lost or stolen gun to their employer or the local police agency within five days. There also is no requirement for law enforcement agencies to set rules on gun tracking and or to regularly report the results to DOJ, though some law enforcement agencies do so voluntarily.

News investigations found that police in California have lost hundreds of firearms:

  • In a survey of 240 California law enforcement agencies covering data from 2010 to mid-2016, the Bay Area News Group found that 944 guns were unaccounted for and fewer than 20 percent were recovered.
  • Over a five-year period, 134 Southern California police agencies lost track of 329 guns, according to the Orange County Register.
  • A 2015 investigation by NBC Bay Area found that over 500 guns from eight different police agencies have gone unaccounted for since 2010.

SB 1185 requires law enforcement agencies to have a written procedure to account for all their guns. The procedure must include a means to account for and document the guns, and a process to update the accounting of weapons as firearms are lost, stolen, replaced, destroyed or disposed of. The policy must also include a process for reconciling the list of guns with the firearms that are physically on hand, and include a requirement for that reconciliation to occur at least once a year. In addition, law enforcement agencies must include a process for officers to report lost or stolen guns to their agency, as well as a disciplinary process for officers who fail to report lost or stolen guns.

SB 1185 updates current law to require law enforcement agencies to report lost or stolen guns to the DOJ’s Automated Firearms System – rather than just the destruction or disposal of a gun. The bill would require law enforcement agencies of fewer than 1,000 officers to comply with the measures by July 1, 2019. The compliance deadline would be January 1, 2020 for departments of 1,000 officers or more.

“SB 1185 is about accountability for police firearms,” Senator Hill said. “Law enforcement agencies must keep close tabs on these weapons of deadly force from the time they are acquired for use in the line duty to the time the guns are retired, destroyed, or disposed of in some other way. And if firearms are stolen or lost, that must be reported.”

SB 1186 Surveillance Technology

SB 1186 extends existing privacy standards for automatic license plate readers and cell-intercept devices to all surveillance technology used by law enforcement agencies.

California enacted two laws by Senator Hill in 2015 – SB 34 & SB 741 – that require law enforcement agencies to develop privacy and use policies if they use an automatic license plate reader system or a cell phone intercept device. The surveillance technologies collect wide-ranging information on members of the public.

SB 34 and SB 741 balance Californian’s civil liberties and privacy with law enforcement’s use of the high-tech tools to fight crime, but are applicable only to two specific technologies. Other surveillance technology used by police includes facial recognition systems, social media scrubbers, biometric scanners, video surveillance and more.

“SB 1186 ensures that the same privacy protocols and standards that currently apply to license plate readers and cell phone intercept devices apply to all other surveillance technology, including those developed in the future,” Senator Hill said.

Under SB 1186 surveillance technologies will be subject to public disclosure and each technology must be governed by a privacy policy.

In addition, no less than every two years, law enforcement agencies would be required to file a Surveillance Use Report to provide an overview of how the surveillance technology has been used. Also, SB 1186 provides an exigent circumstances provision to law enforcement, which would allow them to borrow or obtain surveillance devices they do not have in the case of a true emergency.

SB 1186 defines surveillance technology as any device that is intended to monitor and collect audio, visual, locational, or other information on any individual or group. This covers a broad array of current devices as well as future technologies.

Police must seek approval of their Surveillance Use Policy and subsequent amendments from their city council. Sheriffs’ departments and district attorneys would not be required to do so, but the bill does not preclude county boards of supervisors from exercising their existing budgetary, or other applicable, authority.

Local jurisdictions could adopt provisions that go further than the standards established by the bill. Non-compliance would be enforced through court-ordered injunctive relief and every law enforcement agency would be required to have a process to discipline employees who misuse surveillance devices.

“SB 1186 ensures that jurisdictions using surveillance technology have rules in place about their use and that those rules are made in public and posted publicly,” said Senator Hill. “It’s important to strike a balance between the needs of law enforcement in crime-fighting and the public’s right-to-know and rights to privacy. That’s what this bill strives to achieve.”

The text for SB 1185 and SB 1186 will be available within 24 hours at:
http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/

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Media contact: Leslie Guevarra, 415-298-3404, leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov