On December 6, 2022, the Sebastopol City Council unanimously approved and adopted the Surveillance Technology and Community Safety ordinance proposed by the Sonoma County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California in collaboration with Chief Ron Nelson of the Sebastopol Police Department.  Sebastopol is the first municipality in Sonoma County to pass such an ordinance.  The Sebastopol ordinance features strong whistleblower protections and prohibits biometric surveillance, facial recognition, and predictive policing technologies.

Chapter Leaders of the Sonoma County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California worked on this successful long term project.  Kudos to Chapter Leaders Lauren Mendelsohn, Jim Duffy, Karen Freire, Paul Libeu, Nancy Pemberton, and Omar Figueroa.

Background Information

Law enforcement use of surveillance technologies and services pose significant risks and deserve the time and attention of thorough consideration and community involvement.

  • Use of surveillance systems to monitor our lives and collect information about us without our consent helps fuel an unfair criminal justice system, violates core civil rights, and prevents us from living safe, fulfilling lives.
  • The Surveillance Technology Ordinance codifies best practices for meaningful community engagement to ensure transparency, accountability, and oversight for all proposals to acquire or use surveillance technology.
  • The surveillance technology ordinance mandates that city departments ask the Sebastopol City Council for permission prior to  the funding, acquisition, or use of all surveillance technologies or services. (There is an exception for exigent circumstances.)
  • The surveillance technology ordinance puts the city in the proper position where the community has control over police surveillance and minimizes the chance that surveillance programs are in operation in the city with no knowledge by the community.
  • The ordinance allows for whistleblower protections and enforcement
  • The ordinance prohibits the use of Orwellian technologies, specifically: biometric surveillance, facial recognition, and predictive policing.

Staff Report and Ordinance Language

The Staff Report, which recommended adoption and contains the language of the ordinance, can be read below and downloaded here.  The ordinance will take effect in thirty days, on or about January 6, 2023.

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