ACLU Urges Council Not To Approve Mayor’s Request For “Urban Area Security” Grant

The following is the written statement submitted to the San Diego City Council.

Good Afternoon, Council President Cole and esteemed City Councilmembers.

My name is Chloe Triplett. I am a policy advocate for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

The ACLU is extremely concerned about Mayor Faulconer’s request for a resolution authorizing him to apply for a $16.7 million Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant. The mayor’s request lacks detail about how these public dollars will be spent, offering only a vague reference to addressing “significant operational needs defined in the San Diego Urban Area (SDUA) Homeland Security Strategy.”

Also problematic is that the UASI background materials did not include the actual grant proposal and application. For example, we do not know what items will be purchased. Councilmembers and the public should be allowed to review these additional materials before authorizing the mayor to go forward.

Respectfully, we strongly urge Council to refer this matter back to committee so that Mayor Faulconer can explain in detail how UASI funds will be used and provide the appropriate background material.

We know that other cities have used UASI funding to obtain surveillance and military-grade equipment, such as surveillance cameras in Chicago, BearCat armored trucks in Fargo, North Dakota and Keene, New Hampshire, and armored cars in Long Beach, California. Since the mayor hasn’t disclosed any specifics, how do we know these funds will not be similarly used in San Diego?

The ACLU has been before this body in the past to voice serious concerns about racial profiling and unjust over-policing of San Diego’s communities of color. If there are plans to purchase military-grade equipment, or other surveillance technology, with UASI funds, we are concerned that the use of such equipment will exacerbate racial or economic inequities rather than solve policing problems.

What protections for San Diegans’ civil liberties and civil rights will be in place before these funds are spent? Such protections are especially important because some tech companies share data with outside agencies which takes the control out of the hands of this body. Additionally, according to the staff report released by City Staff, the City of San Diego will have the authority to distribute its UASI funds to other cities in our county – perhaps risking their privacy rights as well.

We want to underscore the importance of knowing what type of data could be shared through a UASI grant agreement. There is a real fear that information may be shared with federal immigration enforcement agencies. We understand that the city council and SDPD have made commitments to protect all San Diegans regardless of immigration status, but we must ensure that immigrants’ information is not unknowingly shared by overlooking the fine print in any agreements.

Other questions the ACLU urges City Council to consider include:

  • Are there plans to further develop existing or new surveillance technologies? If so, which ones?
  • Has the mayor sought input on grant priorities from community stakeholders? If so, whose input was sought and what was learned?
  • What data will be collected, and will it be shared per the grant agreement? What agencies (state and federal) will have access to this information?

The mayor has not been transparent about why these funds are needed and how they will be used.

The ACLU urges the Council not to authorize this agreement and to refer back to committee so that these questions can be answered.  This is a lot of money potentially coming into our region and deserves more oversight than a blanket authorization.

For the sake of transparency, accountability and equal justice for all San Diegans, we urge City Council to thoroughly investigate these matters before approving this resolution authorizing the mayor to apply for a UASI grant.

Thank you for your time and careful consideration of our concerns.