Alice Fontier Presented Testimony at City Council Re: Int 0487-2018: Creating Comprehensive Reporting and Oversight of NYPD Surveillance Technologies

New York City Council

Committee on Public Safety 

Re: Int 0487-2018: Creating Comprehensive Reporting and Oversight of NYPD Surveillance Technologies.

December 18, 2019

Written Testimony of The Bronx Defenders

By Alice Fontier, Managing Director, Criminal Defense Practice

Over the course of a decade, the New York Police Department has adopted surveillance technologies as a central aspect of its policing strategy. The NYPD has unleashed upon ordinary New Yorkers powerful surveillance tools like cell phone location trackers, license plate readers, body-worn cameras,  and facial recognition technology. The adoption and use of such technologies have occurred without meaningful oversight, without independent review of their efficacy and impact, and without establishing legal protections to prevent misuse. While these tools give law enforcement power it has never had before, the NYPD has routinely used them while shrouded in secrecy, depriving citizens of the opportunity to grapple with the threat that these tools present to our privacy and civil rights.

As public defenders on the front lines representing clients, it’s not difficult to see how the NYPD’s lack of transparency impairs the integrity of the criminal legal system and impedes our ability to fairly defend our clients. If surveillance technologies are utilized without proper oversight and meaningful legal protections, there can be no assurance that the methods used against an accused by the government are truly reliable or proper.  The POST Act, which would require the NYPD to evaluate and publish a use policy for surveillance technologies and institute compliance requirement, is a crucial first step that would increase public trust and strengthen the integrity of the criminal legal system. 

Watch the full testimony starting at 3:21:00 here

Read the full testimony here