When Keith Rose participated in the Occupy St. Louis movement in 2011, he did not notice the advice of a fellow protestor to wear bandanas to cover his face. The police had cameras out, but Rose did not assume they had been doing much with the pictures they were taking.
When he joined the Ferguson protests a couple of years later, it seemed to him that law enforcement had indeed begun to place together a file on him. He had not been detained at that time; however, after a few run-ins with police where they knew information like where he had been, who he had been with, or what he had stated, he thought it appeared pretty clear that they had kept a watch on him.
During the demonstrations, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Division opened a surveillance center named the Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC). This data facility aggregates information gathered via technologies like license plate readers, sensors that can detect and locate gunfire, and cameras spread across the town. Most of RTCC, in addition to much of the technology that supports it, was not backed by the city, however through funds and public-private partnerships with firms like Motorola. That strategy, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), allowed the police division to sidestep going to the town’s elected Panel of Aldermen for approval and city funds.
However, with an effort called Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS), the ACLU is attempting to give residents more authority over the technology that police might use to watch them. Initiated in 2016, CCOPS intends to assist local communities draft and pass laws showing them errors of any surveillance technology that law enforcement agencies or the federal government want to deploy.
The ACLU works with local legislators to craft each legislation, altering it to meet the group’s particular needs. A dozen cities, plus San Francisco’s BART system, have passed CCOPS legal guidelines. Along with St. Louis, at least another dozen towns, plus the state of Maine, is in the process of introducing their versions of the law.