Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quick license-plate reader summary

The city council spent something like 2 1/2 hours last night, discussing a proposed change to city handling of license-plate reader data. We did not make a decision regarding a change in city policy. I'd say the general feeling is that there are information and views out there that we haven't yet fully accounted for. Expect the item to be brought back before too long, and there may be a public hearing.

(My write-up, providing information prior to last night's council meeting, is online.)

Last night, Monday May 12, we had testimony from residents, representatives of the Maryland ACLU, and the LPR program manager at the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center (MCAC). The proposed policy change is that Takoma Park would send its data to MCAC, which would aggregate it in a database with LPR data from other jurisdictions and would make it available, on a controlled basis, to law enforcement agencies. MCAC would purge data after one year, except data deemed necessary for longer retention.

While Police Chief Alan Goldberg said that MCAC's data protections are already stronger than those required by Maryland legislation (SB 699/HB 289, enacted this year), it was observed that MCAC can change its policy at any time. For this reason, we would not change our policy before the legislation goes into effect, October 1, 2014, which affords us time for discussion. 

But further, two of the principle sponsors of the state legislation, Delegates Ana Sol Gutierrez and Al Carr, communicated to the city council that they oppose a change in city policy. They say the the legislation was very significantly weakened from what they originally introduced.

Another point to consider is whether uploading Takoma Park's data would actually make a difference in crime-fighting efforts. I plan to elaborate on this point, and other points, in a follow-on that I hope to post within a few days.

Finally, Councilmember Tim Male expressed a desire that the council pass a resolution, laying out rules for LPR data sharing and retention, rather than approve new policy via an informal straw vote. I agree. Thinking a bit more about his suggestion, I'd go further. I will sound out my council colleagues about an ordinance that would address data collection, sharing, and retention in city code -- in city law -- or perhaps even via a charter change.

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