The Mayor of the City of Medford today signed an ordinance that will require community control over public surveillance (CCOPS). Medford now joins over 20 other municipalities nationwide—including Boston, Cambridge, Lawrence, Northampton, and Somerville in Massachusetts—with CCOPS laws that empower local communities to influence surveillance and information sharing decisions. 

“We applaud the Medford City Council for passing an ordinance that will empower residents and their elected officials to decide if and how surveillance technologies are used here,” said Kade Crockford, Technology for Liberty program director at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Far too often, local agencies, like police departments, obtain invasive, costly surveillance equipment in secret and without any oversight. This ordinance ensures local residents remain in control of their own communities.” 

The surveillance oversight ordinance establishes a transparent, democratic process ensuring that Medford public agencies cannot acquire new surveillance technologies without community buy-in. Sponsored by Medford City Councilors Zac Bears and Kit Collins, the ordinance mandates that surveillance technologies cannot be funded, acquired, or used without express City Council approval. City departments seeking to use a previously-acquired surveillance technology in a new way must also receive City Council approval of the new use. 

“Medford now has a strong, transparent public process in place to address the challenges of the fast-growing, unregulated surveillance technology industry,” said Zac Bears, Vice President of the Medford City Council. “I am deeply thankful for the committed residents who advocated for the Community Control Over Public Surveillance Ordinance and to my colleagues in local government for working together to craft an approach that fits Medford's needs and protects our community.” 

“Medford's new Community Control Over Public Surveillance is a policy that our entire community can be proud of,” said Medford City Councilor Kit Collins. “Surveillance technologies are rapidly-evolving, severely under-regulated at the federal and state levels, and aggressively marketed to cities like ours. By adopting the CCOPS ordinance, Medford is ensuring a transparent, collaborative process for vetting and regulating the use of surveillance technology within our community—one that will allow us to consider the benefits of these tools, while protecting residents and marginalized populations from their known risks.” 

Surveillance technologies subject to City Council control per the new ordinance include automatic license plate readers, video and audio surveillance, biometric surveillance technology social media monitoring software, predictive policing software, and more.  

“We are elated to see that after four years of hard work by Medford People Power with the help of the Massachusetts ACLU, this important ordinance was passed,” said Medford resident and People Power activist Marie Izzo. “Surveillance affects everyone but it historically been used against communities of color. Thanks to this great step forward, all Medford residents will know about the use of surveillance technologies in this city and be able to provide input into how municipal agencies may use surveillance technologies. That is a win for all of us!” 

In September 2016, the ACLU launched a nationwide effort to pass CCOPS laws that ensure residents, through their city council representatives, are empowered to decide if and how surveillance technologies are used. Medford marks the 23rd CCOPS laws passed; as a result, nearly 18 million residents—along with countless visitors and undocumented people—now have a meaningful say over the use of intrusive surveillance technologies in their communities. 

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