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City Council Plans Vote on POST Act, Creating Civilian Oversight of Police Surveillance

New York, NY – Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Budget, today announced that the City Council will vote on the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act on June 18. The bill, Intro. 487, requires the NYPD to publicly disclose information on its surveillance technology tools and to develop policies on how it uses those tools. The bill would also require annual oversight of the NYPD’s use of surveillance technology to ensure compliance with those policies.

The legislation, which was heard by the Council’s Committee on Public Safety, was crafted with feedback from civil rights and civil liberties groups concerned over the lack of oversight of the NYPD’s use of surveillance tools on the public. The NYPD has access to cell site simulators to capture cell phone information, facial recognition technology, license plate readers and X-ray vans, but there has been little public information on the capabilities of these tools and how the NYPD’s uses the private information they collect. In addition, the public has no way of knowing what other surveillance tools the NYPD uses.

The June 18th Stated also includes other police reform bills, including one that makes it a crime for police to use chokeholds, one that requires the NYPD to use a disciplinary matrix, and a third that makes it illegal for officers to hide their badge numbers.

“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,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“The Speaker’s decision to move forward with a vote on the POST Act at our next Stated meeting is a tremendous win for us and all of the amazing advocates that have worked tirelessly to push this bill forward. 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. I want to thank the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), New York Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Legal Aid Society for all of their hard work and Speaker Corey Johnson for recognizing the importance of passing this legislation,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Budget.

“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,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety.

“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. 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,” said Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn.

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