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City Of Dayton Passes Police Surveillance Tech Ordinance

A multicolored-sign that reads "Welcome to Twin Towers" sits on a grassy lawn at the entrance of the Twin Towers neighborhood in East Dayton. The Dayton City Police Department installed 30 automated license plate reader cameras in this neighborhood.
Mawa Iqbal
A multicolored sign sits at the entrance of the Twin Towers neighborhood in East Dayton. This is where the Dayton City Police Department installed 30 automated license plate reader cameras as part of a trial-run.

On Wednesday, the Dayton City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance that subjects new surveillance technologies to an oversight process before they are adopted by the police department.

The police department will now have to prepare a surveillance impact report that describes the new technology and how it will be used. They will then present the report in a public hearing before sending it to the commission for approval.

The effort to create an oversight process began about 9 months ago, after the city installed ShotSpotter gun-shot detectors in the Dayton View neighborhood, and automated license plate readers in the Twin Towers neighborhoods.

A coalition of local civil rights groups said that very few people were consulted before either technologies were installed. They approached the city about creating a more transparent process.

The coalition, which is made up of several groups including, the Dayton NAACP, Latinos Unidos and ABLE Law, is happy with the city’s cooperation in drafting the ordinance. However, in a public comment to the city, the coalition states that they still have some concerns about specific sections.

One concern is with the city’s decision to notify residents that a technology has been moved to a different neighborhood no later than 72 hours after the fact.

“Residents should be notified and have an opportunity to voice concerns to the City Commission well before the technology is deployed in their neighborhood,” the letter reads. “We are also concerned about the City’s decision to provide notice only when previously 'fixed' technology is moved, without any policy or other document that defines the term 'fixed.'”

During the city commission meeting, commissioner Matt Joseph thanked the coalition and city leadership for their patience. He says this year-long process is a step in the right direction.

“I always enjoy when the system works like it's intended to,” Joseph said. “People come in with very difficult opinions and very difficult stances and using the system, using negotiation... to hammer out a compromise that no one is thrilled with, but everybody is OK with.”

The city has 180 days to enact an overarching policy that will outline how the data will be stored, for how long and who will have access to it.

Mawa Iqbal is a reporter for WYSO. Before coming to WYSO, she interned at Kansas City PBS's digital magazine, Flatland. There, her reporting focused on higher education and immigrant communities in the Kansas City area. She studied radio journalism at Mizzou, where she also worked for their local NPR-affiliate station as a reporter.