In a major victory for community activists in Maimi Dade county, MDPD director, Juan Perez, has withdrawn his proposal for a Wide Area Surveillance program in response to the outcry. Defending Rights & Dissent had joined with local activists to protest the plan to implement the invasive technology, and objecting to the underhanded way the MDPD had sought to gain approval for the project.
After director Perez informed him the police would not pursue the project, Howard Simon, director of the Florida ACLU said:
“This is how the process is supposed to work: Decisions about what technology law enforcement agencies are using should be made in the open with input from the public and their elected representatives rather than through a fast-track grant process — in which, as in this case, commissioners were asked to give retroactive approval.”
Jerry Iannelli, broke the news about the proposed program in the Miami New Times, and covered the growing outrage and activism over this type of surveillance. At first, details were sketchy about how the MDPD planned to use the invasive technology. But details emerged on Friday, when we learned not only that the grant proposal envisioned a much broader and intensive surveillance program, and that the rationale behind the proposal was based in part on distrust of the police in black neighborhoods (as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement…). Iannelli elaborates:
The usefulness of the proposed surveillance scheme was at best dubious and at worst deeply offensive. According to a memo the Herald obtained over the weekend, MDPD planned to fly Cessna planes armed with high-powered cameras over certain “high-crime” neighborhoods in the county. The DOJ grant would have eventually authorized more than $1 million to fly a plane over the county’s North Side police district — between Miami and Miami Gardens — for roughly ten hours per day.
MDPD wanted to use the technology to study the people alleged criminals met with “one or two weeks” prior to committing crimes, in an attempt to weed out “criminal networks” in the county. But in practice, police attempts at deducing “criminal gang members” have often been hilariously wrong and, with absolutely no evidence, have often targeted young, black children and teenagers. The plan MDPD had proposed would have implied that anyone who has friends or family in the North Side district might be a part of a so-called criminal network.
Astoundingly, MDPD also blamed escalating crime in the area on the increased scrutiny police have come under during the smartphone and Black Lives Matter age. In its application to the DOJ, the department suggested that because more people are allegedly criticizing police nowadays, residents are less likely to report crimes.
“The increase in these crimes stems from limited police resources to address specific resources and the overall state of the nation in regards to the perceptions of law enforcement,” the application read, according to the Herald. Had the tests gone well, the department would have then applied for a full-time WAS program, which would have needed county commission approval before going into effect. There were no guarantees as to whether the program would have been expanded to other neighborhoods.