Less Shotspotter and Less DNA Collection


January 31 was a big legislative deadline in CA’s state capitol, as left-over legislation either had to cross over to the other house or expire. Here at Oakland Privacy, we have two expirations to celebrate as bills we fought against as unwarranted expansions of the surveillance state, failed to advance.

AB 1559 was a new state-funded grant program meant to enhance the spread of Shotspotter gunshot detection technology by funding acquisition for municipal police departments all over California. Gunshot detection is based on the placement of outdoor microphones which begin recording when triggered by a loud noise and then notify law enforcement of the precise location of the noise. Large error rates (sometimes as high as 62%) and saturation in low-income and black and brown neighborhoods are some of known problems with Shotspotter technology. The end of AB 1559 means that the State will not be subsidizing the adoption of Shotspotter.

AB 16 would have mandated DNA collection from suspected perpetrators of numerous misdemeanor crimes removed from felony status by California voters when they passed Proposition 47. DNA collection is required under CA law for felony suspects. The original version of the bill included the entire gamut of misdemeanors including shoplifting less than $950 of merchandise and petty theft. A later amendment refined the list of misdemeanors meriting DNA collection to more serious ones, although still including categories such as human trafficking and “making threats on social media”, which are sometimes misused. In either case, the bill promised a significant increase in DNA collection in CA, with the commensurate problems of security and complex expungement procedures. AB 16’s defeat means that only suspicion of a felony can merit DNA collection by CA law enforcement agencies.



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