Rules for license-tracking cameras approved in Wright City

Clarifications for improper use, data transparency added

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 11/17/22

Wright City aldermen have finalized rules for transparency requirements associated with new smart cameras that can automatically identify license plates and other identifying information about …

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Rules for license-tracking cameras approved in Wright City

Clarifications for improper use, data transparency added

Posted

Wright City aldermen have finalized rules for transparency requirements associated with new smart cameras that can automatically identify license plates and other identifying information about passing vehicles.

Wright City is purchasing, but has not yet installed, two smart cameras called “automated license plate readers,” which will be provided and maintained by Flock Security. The city ordinance governing use and transparency requirements had been scheduled for final approval in late October, but was postponed for revision. Aldermen voted 4-0 to approve the revised transparency ordinance on Nov. 10.

Among other requirements, the ordinance directs the city to maintain a “transparency dashboard” on its website, and requires city police to report on how the system is being used. The revisions to the final ordinance further clarified those requirements.

“There’s been two changes to this. One: A definition to clarify what’s meant by ‘improper use or access,’ in line with police department protocol,” explained Alderman Karey Owens, the sponsor of the transparency ordinance. “And then also ... should the transparency portal go down ... you’ll be able to see the last time it was updated.”

Here are the specifics on those two revisions:

  • A new paragraph has been added to the ordinance in order to define improper use or access to the database where information tracked by the smart cameras is stored. That definition of “improper” is “Use or access of the (automated license plate reader) system outside of legitimate law enforcement uses or by unauthorized personnel.”
  • A new paragraph has been added stating that if the online transparency dashboard stops working while the smart cameras are still functioning and recording information, data from the cameras will be retroactively added to the dashboard once it’s back online.

And here are the transparency requirements that were carried over from the first draft of the ordinance:

  • Any smart camera used by Wright City must have a “surveillance notification” sign displayed on or near the device.
  • Information must be added to the city website stating what vehicle information is being collected, which outside agencies have access to Wright City’s data, and real-time statistics related to camera usage, including how many “hotlist” vehicles have been detected and how many database searches have been conducted by police.
  • The Wright City police chief must inform aldermen immediately after learning that data from the cameras has been improperly accessed or used.
  • The police chief must present the board of aldermen with an annual review of how the smart cameras are being used, as well as any complaints or concerns. A summary of that report must be provided to a local newspaper for publication.

Although aldermen earlier this year discussed the creation of a citizen review board to monitor for potential privacy concerns in how the smart cameras are being used, aldermen chose not to include that requirement in the ordinance.

Owens noted that one additional long-term concern about usage of smart cameras is how the transparency ordinance might need to be modified if the city ever purchases car-mounted smart cameras, rather than the solely stationary models being purchased currently. Car-mounted smart cameras would likely use a different database system and require different transparency considerations, aldermen noted.

Alderman Ramiz Hakim said the transparency ordinance will block any new camera systems from going into use if they can’t meet the same transparency requirements.

“This law would prohibit it if the technology is not there. I think that’s a good thing,” Hakim commented.

Wright City Board of Aldermen, Police, Cameras, License cameras

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