City Council plans vote on POST Act, creating civilian oversight of police surveillance 

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson announced that the City Council will vote on the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act on June 18.
Courtesy of Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson

The ways that NYPD uses technology could drastically change later this week.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Budget, recently announced that the City Council will vote on the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act on June 18. New York City would join several cities across the country that requires their police department to disclose their use of surveillance technology to ensure oversight and transparency.

The bill 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 created 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. Additionally, the public has no way of knowing what other surveillance tools the NYPD uses.

Others police reform bills set to be voted on Thursday  include 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.

“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,” Gibson said. “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.”