The Police Accountability Board (PAB) hosted a regular meeting on Wednesday, July 12th, 2023, where they took two votes on the Berkeley Police Department’s (BPD) use of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR).
The meeting started off with the Office of the Director of Police Accountability (ODPA) giving acknowledgments. Then, they allowed for any public comments. Members of the ODPA then went over the approval of minutes for June. After that, members of the ODPA staff, board, and subcommittees, and the BPD chief, Micheal Durbin, gave reports on their respective departments. Next, the board went over commendations for the BPD officers and staff. Finally, it was time to discuss the new policies on the BPD’s use of ALPRs.
The PAB members brought up many important points to consider regarding the new implementation of ALPR devices across Berkeley. One significant point that was mentioned was that there is no concrete evidence that ALPR devices do reduce crimes in the areas that they have already been used. One board member provided graphs to support this point. The PAB also had multiple concerns about the privacy of ALPR device data. For one, the location of these cameras will depend on the vendor, which has not been decided yet. The reason that this is important is because the license plates that these readers will collect will depend on their location. One attendee said that if these readers are placed in majority black or brown neighborhoods, the license plates that they capture will also be majority black or brown, which can lead to police officers targeting these communities. Another concern the PAB had was with the number of officers that will have access to the ALPR data, as it is not specified. The board was also concerned that the policies did not specify that ALPRs will be used only for California law enforcement purposes. This could mean that people crossing into California for reproductive or gender affirming purposes will be at risk. Along with all these issues, the board also expressed concern about the cost of the ALPR cameras.
Towards the end of the meeting, the board members took two votes. The first vote was on the adoption of ALPR devices, where three out of four board members voted to object. In contrast, one board member voted in favor of the adoption of ALPR devices. The second vote was on the adoption of the new ALPR policies, as presented. All four members of the board voted to object to the policies. The board recommended that the BPD hire a consultant to further research the board’s concerns.
The public was informed that both the PAB and the BPD will be at the Berkeley city council meeting on July 25th to discuss ALPRs.
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