Blog by Kade Crockford, director of the ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Program.

Last night, the Cambridge City Council unanimously voted to approve an ordinance requiring community control over police surveillance. Under the ordinance, City agencies including the police are required to seek City Council permission before buying, acquiring, or otherwise using new surveillance technologies. The City Council must also approve a policy to govern the use of each technology. Agencies are required to submit for Council approval all existing technologies, as well as surveillance impact assessments outlining the estimated costs and benefits of adopting the tools.

The passage of the ordinance last night was the culmination of over two years of work by the ACLU, Cambridge residents, the City, and members of the City Council. The ACLU is especially grateful to Mayor Marc McGovern and his chief of staff Wil Durbin for their leadership and stewardship of the ordinance over the years. 

At the Council meeting last night, Councilor Craig Kelley suggested some modifications to the ordinance, some of which were accepted on a voice vote. The changes that took effect last night are outlined in bullet points 1, 2, and 4 in Councilor Kelley’s letter to the Council. Besides those small changes, this November 2018 version of the ordinance is the one that became law last night. Once the Council Clerk has posted the final ordinance online, we will post it here.

The ordinance takes effect nine months from the day of its passage. We at the ACLU look forward to working with the City of Cambridge in 2019 to implement the ordinance to ensure the City’s use of surveillance technology happens in a democratic manner, with the knowledge and participation of the public, and with robust elected official oversight.

Cambridge’s ordinance is the second passed by a Massachusetts City Council in 2018. In September, the Lawrence City Council passed a similar law.

Learn more about community control over police surveillance

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