San Diego joins other cities in restricting cops' use of surveillance technology

Body cameras and other devices will need approval.

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San Diego is joining the ranks of cities clamping down on surveillance technology. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports the City Council has given a final greenlight to an ordinance requiring approval for tech that can identify and track individuals, such as body and streetlight cameras. Municipal government workers will have to outline the intended uses of a surveillance system, while a new privacy advisory board and residents will be asked for input. Councillors will also conduct yearly reviews of in-use systems.

The city has a year-long grace period to both form the advisory board and give departments a chance to examine their surveillance tech inventories. Organizations that already use these systems will need authorization to continue use. An exception will allow police on federal task forces to use surveillance, however. San Diego Police Department Chief David Nisleit requested the carve-out over concerns that local officers couldn't participate in federal operations that bar disclosure of surveillance tech.

The council first approved the ordinance in November 2020. The late approval comes after multiple employee groups exercised their right to review the new rules. That process alone took about 18 months, The Union-Tribune said.

San Diego is relatively late to such regulations. San Francisco and other cities have banned facial recognition, for instance. Even so, its approval might increase pressure on other local governments to either restrict surveillance hardware or offer more transparency regarding their monitoring tools.