Councilwoman calls on ACLU regarding Hattiesburg police surveillance

Blake Feldman/Photo credit: WDAM
Blake Feldman/Photo credit: WDAM
Published: Oct. 4, 2016 at 7:04 PM CDT|Updated: Feb. 26, 2018 at 4:25 PM CST
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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A member of the Hattiesburg City Council is calling on the American Civil Liberties Union in hopes of putting a policy in place when it comes to police surveillance in the Hub City.

Councilwoman Deborah Delgado raised concerns in Monday's Hattiesburg planning meeting about advanced surveillance tools available to police departments.

Delgado wants the city council and the citizens to be in a position to vet all surveillance equipment before the police department purchases it.

"When you really look at it, it can be, there can be a thin line drawn between the rights or the civil rights of an individual or rights of privacy that maybe over stepped in our need to protect and serve," Delgado said.

The Hattiesburg Police Department is in the process of rolling out body cameras to the force.

"It really does assist our officers in protecting and serving, it's a way for us to find out what goes on in the event of a police encounter and that can protect not only the private citizens, but also officers to make sure there is an accurate record of what takes place," Delgado said.

When it comes to surveillance policies and how tools are used, Delgado raised concerns.

"I started looking into this matter of public policy and the kind of technology that's out there and available now and it just caused me to have chills," Delgado said.

Delgado said items like Stingrays, which are used for cell phone surveillance, as well as other items need to be addressed before they are even purchased by the department.

"This ordinance wouldn't be setting up the policy for body cameras, or setting up the policy for when a stingray could be used, what the limitations would be, it's really just setting up the procedure to where before the Hattiesburg Police Department deploys a piece of this technology or acquires this technology that the council is fully informed and that they give consent for them, they give approval for that," ACLU Advocacy Coordinator Blake Feldman said.

Hattiesburg Police Chief Anthony Parker addressed the concerns regarding policies in the meeting as well.

"I don't have a problem with transparency, but we are the most scrutinized department in city government already, we don't implement anything before we write a policy on it," Hattiesburg Police Chief Anthony Parker said.

A version of a proposed ordinance could be added on the agenda in the next two weeks, according to council members.

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