People Speak Out Against RTIC

Local Gov CroppedHere’s an update on Thursday’s Bond Issue hearing before the Ways and Means Committee:
Drone Free St. Louis was excited to see St. Louis city residents speak out vigorously against the Police Department plan for a Real Time Intelligence Center. As most of you know, Chief Dotson has proposed that $6million from the upcoming city bond issue, and another $4 million dollars from the proposed transportation sales tax, be spent to create a hub for surveillance cameras. But approximately a dozen St. Louisans at an aldermanic Ways and Means Committee meeting wanted nothing to do with mass surveillance.
Civil libertarians reminded alderpersons about the American tradition that no one’s privacy should be invaded without specific evidence of wrongdoing. One witness stated it this way: “I don’t want to have to chose between giving up my civil liberties and deciding whether we need to buy more ambulances.” Others agreed that the decision to employ a network of cameras was a major policy change which needed to be discussed in depth before the city made such a choice. They advocated removing the RTIC from the bond issue so that discussion could take place. A member of CAPIC, the Coalition to Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex, testified that we can no longer continue to throw people into our overcrowded prisons. She urged the alderpersons to search for alternative methods of crime prevention. Other speakers followed up on that theme, suggesting street lights, community centers and other economic development programs as better means of preventing crime. A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri stated that his organization was completing a study of cameras in St. Louis, finding that there are a woeful lack of privacy protections and that cameras are not even effective methods for preventing crime.
No one, including alderpersons more sympathetic to street cameras, spoke in favor of the RTIC. During the session, President Lewis Reed, the sponsor of the bond issue proposal, tweeted that his revised bill would carve out the RTIC as a separate issue when the bond reaches the November ballot. In that way citizens would have the opportunity to make their wishes known.
Drone Free St. Louis urges the alderpersons to listen to the voices they heard on Thursday. The same message has been consistent throughout the various forums for public input on bond issue projects. The RTIC is not the means to create safer neighborhoods. At the very least, the citizens of the city should have the chance to debate the issue and vote it up or down as a separate proposal in November.
The bond issue was not voted out of committee Thursday; Ways and Means will meet again this coming week for a vote before the bill moves to the floor for final passage.


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