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Dayton Rejects Controversial Aerial Surveillance Plan UPDATED

Dayton’s plan to use aerial surveillance to address crime in the city has been shelved. City manager Tim Riordan says it will not pursue a $120 thousand contract with Persistant Surveillance Systems Inc., a company that would have provided manned aircraft to monitor crime above the city. Riordan made his remarks at Wednesday's commission meeting.

In a press release to WYSO, Tim Riordan says:

“I do not intend to move forward with bringing the Persistent Surveillance Systems contract before the City Commission for consideration.  In our meetings around the community, we heard viewpoints and opinions from all sides.   While we believe there are real potential benefits to the strategic application of this technology, we heard enough confusion over how it would be applied to concern us.

“The City of Dayton has placed a priority on using technology to enhance operations and control costs across our organization. I commend Police Chief Richard Biehl and Assistant City Manager Shelley Dickstein for their efforts in bringing this technology application forward because of their concern for community safety and job creation.

“Going forward, we will continue to pursue technology investments whenever practical. One thing is clear: technology advancements will continue to offer opportunities in the years ahead in terms of services, safety and job creation.  We will be poised to take advantage of those opportunities.”

City commissioner Nan Whaley says Dayton is still committed to being a leader in technology.

"But at the same time we need to be a leader in civil liberties. Frankly, I think we got ahead on the technology part and not really even on the civil liberties piece so I hope in the coming year we’ll be able to do more work," says Whaley.

Police Chief Richard Biehl says he’s disappointed in the decision because he thought there was a lack of understanding on how the technology worked and how it could help prevent crime.

"The conversation became, I think, a little single minded in its emphases by the  opponents concerned about curtailment or chilling effect of free speech as well as privacy issue to the neglect of a concern victims of crime and the most fundamental right, which is a right to life," says Biehl.

The ACLU of Ohio and local citizens raised concerns there was a potential for the technology to be misused and that it could be a violation of privacy. The ACLU says they’re pleased with the decision but hope the city establishes privacy rights for its citizens.