On February 17, 2022, the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety held a Performance Oversight Hearing regarding the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. As a member of the Community Oversight of Surveillance-DC coalition, CDT presented testimony to join our partners in calling for adoption of local legislation that requires community input and Council approval in all acquisition and use of surveillance technologies by D.C. government agencies.
It is widely known that Black and brown people are historically overpoliced and overrepresented in use-of-force incidents. Fellow witnesses shared from personal experience how this reality remains especially acute for Black and immigrant communities in D.C. Across the country, rates of police encounters and arrests are used as data points to inform where to look for crime, further directing police to communities that are disproportionately targeted to begin with. Surveillance technologies build upon these factors – they process the data they collect to flag public safety threats without the situational context necessary to avoid excessive police responses. As a result, certain uses of these technologies have threatened civil rights, due process rights, privacy, and free expression. When the threats are so severe, accountability to the public is especially critical. Therefore, impacted communities must be recognized and treated as key stakeholders in decisions about government use of surveillance technologies.