The time to increase oversight of surveillance technology is now.

Detroiters deserve a say in how their tax dollars are spent – and this includes whether to invest more of their money on expanding the use of controversial surveillance tools, which they have had little input on to date. They also have a right to know what happens with the data collected with these tools. That also has not been available to the public. That is exactly why the proposed Community Input Over Government Surveillance (CIOGS) ordinance currently being considered by the Detroit City Council must be passed.  

CIOGS would require a hearing to allow the public to weigh in before technology can be acquired by a city department -- including the Detroit Police Department -- establish guidelines for use of the technology and require annual reporting. 

Transparency and accountability should be fundamental to any well-governed municipality. But Detroiters had little say about the millions of dollars poured into Project Green Light (PGL), facial recognition technology and a real-time crime center through which it is all managed.  

PGL was launched in 2016, when surveillance cameras were installed at eight gas stations and convenience stores around Detroit in locations DPD identified as high-crime areas, with the goal of preventing crime. Since then, the project has been expanded to include more than 700 cameras, in locations as varied as schools, churches, and clinics, among others, at a reported cost of more than $8 million. The City Council approved a $4 million expansion of the crime center in 2019 and okayed a $220,000 maintenance contract with the provider of its facial recognition software last year. The city paid more than $1 million for that technology in 2017, despite common knowledge that the software misidentifies people of color at irresponsibly high rates. 

Council members have said they had limited information on those early expenditures, and residents have been frustrated by the limited time they have been allowed to voice their concerns along the way. CIOGS provides a mechanism for future deliberation of whether the city continues to pour millions of additional dollars into these controversial technologies or invest in other resources like mental and physical health services, education, job creation and training, recreation, transportation or other things that make neighborhoods stronger and improve lives. 

Why we need CIOGS: 

  • Under current law, the Detroit City Council receives very limited information about surveillance technologies even though it is the body that decides whether to purchase it with residents’ tax dollars. The Council is provided even less information about how the technology will be used. As for the public, they also get virtually no information, so they have little chance to form opinions and raise objections. CIOGS ensures that the Detroit City Council is provided critical information when deciding whether to acquire additional surveillance technologies. It also ensures government transparency by requiring public input, allowing Detroit residents to have a say on how their tax dollars are spent. 
  • CIOGS will provide residents an opportunity to consider whether to continue spending on surveillance technology or to instead invest in resources that are proven to strengthen neighborhoods and improve community safety, like health care, housing, education, transportation, recreation, etc. 
  • The broad use of surveillance technologies in Detroit treats people who live and work in the city like suspects. CIOGS will force city officials who want to use surveillance technology to create and follow policies for its use that keep everyone safe and free from unwarranted surveillance. 
  • CIOGS is being sponsored by City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield. A virtual hearing on the ordinance will be held April 12, at 10 a.m., before the council’s public health and safety committee. We urge residents to attend the meeting online, to sign up for public comment, and let their opinions be known. 

To tell the City Council to pass CIOGS, go to today. 

Information on the April 12 City Council Public Health and Safety Committee meeting can be found by clicking here.  

We encourage you to log on and voice your support during the public comment portion of the meeting.