ACLU to scrutinize ‘Eye in the Sky’

Representative installation of LEAPS.

LANCASTER – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has filed a state public records request to obtain information about the Law Enforcement Aerial Platform System. Information requested include how long the video will be kept and whether the images will be public record.

“People who have done nothing wrong shouldn’t have anything they do in their yards or homes subject to video surveillance from the sky,” senior staff attorney for the ACLU Peter Bibring told the LA Times this week. “To the extent that it involves observing things which a typical pilot overhead might not be able to see, it raises serious constitutional questions.”

Tuesday the City Council unanimously approved an agreement with Aero View LLC which would provide for an aerial surveillance system for Lancaster as soon as Spring of 2012.

Under the agreement the City would pay $1.3 million to launch the system, which outfits a Cessna 172 with cameras to deliver imagery, via an encrypted communications link, to equipment at the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station. The aircraft would provide 10 hours of aerial surveillance a day from altitudes of 1,000 to 3,000 feet. After an initial 12 months of service, the City would pay $90,000 a month to maintain aerial surveillance.

The ACLU has been especially critical of public video surveillance systems in the past. In their 2007 report “Under the Watchful Eye: The Proliferation of Video Surveillance Systems in California,” the ACLU examines “the threat posed by public video surveillance to privacy and other civil liberties.”

Page four of the 28-page report reads:

“Residents in high-crime areas, their political leaders and police officials often see surveillance systems as an obvious solution to crime. Often, however, little consideration is given to the significant evidence demonstrating that camera surveillance is ineffective, especially when compared with other alternatives…
Surveillance cameras will not improve public safety, and limited funds can be better spent on programs that are both proven effective and less invasive, such as improved lighting, foot patrols, and real community policing.”

Read the entire report here.

  14 comments for “ACLU to scrutinize ‘Eye in the Sky’

  1. October 3, 2012 at 7:03 am

    I love this surveilance system! The only people that i think would have a problem with it would be the criminals who don’t want us looking at them and of course the.racist obstructionist organization the Aclu. Who is only here to help criminals of America get away with commiting crimes.

  2. Stinger
    November 17, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Seriously, OldTimer, how do you get “free” out of “included in the contract?” If the air support is being paid for as part of a contract, it is not “free,” is it? The use of the LASD Air Support is ALREADY PAID FOR as part of the contracted police services. This is why many municipalities opt to contract their law enforcement with the LASD instead of forming their own police department… It’s more cost efficient!

    I also just loved your attempt to marginalize those who disagree with this violation of rights as being criminals or are somehow anti-law enforcement. Pure BS, there, OldTimer – and you know it.

    Now, your statement of people having a problem with this because of who is behind it has some validity. However, it is not simply a case of ‘not liking Parris,’ but having more to do with the fact that Parris is incredibly CORRUPT. That fact adversely affects anybody’s ability to trust that this is truly for pure law enforcement reasons instead of politically motivated reasons.

    • OldTimer
      November 18, 2011 at 7:18 am

      You are trying to say that the helo costs no *extra* money. You are trying to say that basically a flat fee has already been paid for its use, right? I’m asking you if perhaps there is an HOURLY charge above and beyond the base contract amount paid to LASD. If the helo has already been paid for in the contract as you suggest, then what amount of time do we get to use it for without any additional hourly fee? Does that contract say we get 24/7 coverage? I hope not, because we don’t. Does the contract say we get “XX hours per month” included?

    • OldTimer
      November 18, 2011 at 8:00 am

      To add to my last comment I suppose it’s possible that this contract gives Lancaster access to the helo, but only when it’s available, and only in response to a specific incident. The helo is probably not available to perform routine patrol.

      If that’s the case, then isn’t this airplane providing a new capability that Lancaster doesn’t have? Instead of just reacting to some major crime in progress like the helo, this would be a proactive deterrent, and it could also be used to react to a crime in progress like the helo.

      I really do wonder how this idea would be accepted, if the name Parris wasn’t attached. It’s my belief that just about every act of *any* politician has some political motive behind it, ya know what I mean? But, if an act does benefit the citizens, then let them have their little political brownie points. Citizens will let them know if their actions were good or not, at election time.

      You said, “…also just loved your attempt to marginalize those who disagree with this violation of rights…”

      You’re right, I did try to marginalize this into a few possibilities. Maybe those aren’t the only ones. But there you go again, with the same “violation of rights” comment. Just because you say it is, doesn’t make it so. The courts have already decided that it’s not. Yes, let’s debate this issue, but shouldn’t we get past the wrong assumption that this is a violation of rights?

  3. Mike Rives
    November 17, 2011 at 10:26 am

    The Mayor said Lancaster could not afford a helicopter which is the best method of responding to citizens’ calls for service, yet, we can afford $1.3 Million for the plane and $90 thousand a month for 10 hours of service a day with the plane which can only stay up 5 hours at a time without refueling. Protect our citizens! We have millions in the bank, we can afford the helicopter! Don’t fiddle around with Deputies and Citizens lives!

    • OldTimer
      November 17, 2011 at 11:30 am

      How long can the helicopter stay up at one time? What is the purchase price of a helicopter with the same equipment? What is the hourly cost to operate the helicopter? What’s the hourly labor cost for the helpcopter pilot and observer?

      I agree that a helicopter has advantages over fixed wing. Unfortunately, its also pretty cost prohibitive, which is why I think they went this way.

      • Eric Moore
        November 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

        Give it up Old Timer, this hole thing is a fraud as far as many people are concern, it smells bad all around, maney spend, civil rights, the hole thing just stinks, you keep putting lipstick on a that pig… but we all can still see and smell the pig.

        • OldTimer
          November 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

          It’s spelled “whole” (not “hole”)
          It’s spelled “money” (not “maney”)

          I respect your opinion to not like this project… but why is it every time someone just speaks in opposition, they can’t answer the question posed, to prove their point that this is a bad idea?

          I basically asked what the cost difference was between the two platforms. You didn’t answer that. Would you be in favor of a helicopter instead? If so, would you also be in favor of the city spending a LOT more money for that helicopter?

          If the answer is “no, I don’t want ANYTHING flying in the sky… helicopter or airplane”, then I’m back to respecting your point of view on it. Sure, I have a “pro” stance on this thing, and I offer arguments why it’s ok. So why don’t you offer reasons it’s not ok (besides the “I hate R Rex Parris” thing?

          • Eric Moore
            November 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm

            Sorry Old timer, Whole, money, there corrected, but your pig still needs a whole lot of lipstick to fly,

          • Stinger
            November 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm

            First off, Old Timer, it is not a matter of ‘either/or,’ since the LASD already has a fleet of helicopters – the use of which for air support of AV deputies is ALREADY INCLUDED IN THE CONTRACT WITH EACH CITY!

            So, in answer to your question about cost difference: It is a HUGE increase for a platform that is not needed AT ALL.

            This is nothing more than another corrupt way for Parris to keep feeding taxpayer money to his cronies.

          • OldTimer
            November 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm

            Well again, please give us all some fact and evidence to back up why this thing is so bad. I’d love to hate this project as much as you do, but you must give me a decent reason to do so. Just saying it’s a pig with lipstick means nothing, unless you can tell me some factual reasons why its a pig with lipstick.

            That’s been the problem in this whole thread. People whine about how bad this idea is, and even come up with some very wrong assumptions, yet can’t back up their statements with any fact or evidence.

            Early on, some people said this was a violation of the forth amendment. I offered evidence that it is not. The only responses I saw were people who wanted to just quote the forth amendment. Look, like it or not, aerial surveillance has already been argued in the court system, and found to be legal. No, you can not peek thru walls without a search warrant, but the basic things one can see from the public airspace is legal.

            Other people wrongly claim this thing has “heat sensors”, and is able to look thru your roof or walls to see you inside. I offered fact on what this system can and can not do. No one was able to refute that.

            Then, there are people who basically say that the airplane is bad, but helicopters are good. I offered facts about the cost of the helicopters vs the airplane. No one can prove otherwise. If the cost of the helicopter was anywhere in the vicinity of the cost of this plane, I’d be agreeing with you that it would be a better choice. But the fact is that you can have this airplane for 10 hours, for the cost of 1 hour of helicopter time. You want the city to spend 10 times as much money on getting a full time helicopter up here, or would that just spark another debate about how much extra money is being spent on that? If you agree that a helicopter is good, then you’re basically agreeing that aerial surveillance is ok, too. So take your pick: For the same amount of money, you can have 1 hour of helicopter per day, or 10 hours of airplane per day.

            Heck, I’d love to see a helicopter up here 24/7. But knowing the cost of it, I would also be one of the first to complain about that cost. I think we all agree that it would be wonderful, if we could have a deputy on every single intersection of Lancaster, too. That certainly would help crime, but it will never happen, because of the costs. To me, it does look like the city is trying to find another tool for the police to use. Sure, this tool is a compromise between a perfect solution, and a complete waste of money, but there is value for the price of it.

            If we are going to engage in an intelligent debate to help decide whether this idea is good or bad, it should be debated with facts, not just the opinions of people who don’t have facts. Right?

            Without facts to support how bad this idea is, this whole thread is just a bunch of people complaining, with nothing to back up their arguments. And if that’s all it is, then this is not a serious conversation/debate, is it? That makes me think that the real reason some of the anti-airplane people are complaining so loudly is:

            (1) They are criminals, and don’t want police to have an easy time catching them.

            (2) They are otherwise law abiding citizens, but for some reason do not want the police to have tools like this at their disposal (so please don’t complain when your house is burglarized)

            (3) They just plain hate R Rex Parris and the Lancaster City Council, and just because their name is on this project, then they hate this project. Hate the project for shortcomings of the project itself, not the names behind it.

          • OldTimer
            November 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm

            Stinger: Do you know for a fact what the terms of the contract are? Does Lancaster get “free, unlimited” use of the helicopters in this contract, or does Lancaster pay extra when its used?

            Yes, LASD has a fleet of helicopters. None of them are based here, and none of them are for our exclusive use.

            Seems to me, if they had this “unlimited, free” use of a helicopter, it would be based here, and flying a lot more than it does, right?

            You said: “It is a HUGE increase for a platform that is not needed AT ALL”

            Huge compared to what? Doing nothing? Yes, I agree. Huge compared to us having our own helicopter? Not even close. In any event, why is it “not needed at all”? Lancaster is crime-free?

            You said “This is nothing more than another corrupt way for Parris to keep feeding taxpayer money to his cronies.”

            I rest my case. Perris is the big problem with this project in many people’s eyes. So it’s not about the project.. it’s about who’s name is on it.

  4. William
    November 15, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I always marvel at right wingers who complain about the ACLU. The ACLU doesn’t decide any cases it is involved in. It files a suit and the case is decided in a court of law. But, the right acts like it’s the ACLU making new law or some such notion that they pull out of a dark place.

  5. Stinger
    November 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Seriously. It’s like Parris is getting kickbacks on hiring attorneys for all of the lawsuits that he can get the taxpayers to have to pay for.

    Definition of ignorant: He didn’t know any better.

    Definition of stupid: He knew better, but he did it anyways.

    As an attorney, Parris is presumably not ignorant of the law, so that makes him just plain stupid.

Comments are closed.