City of Somerville
Massachusetts

Agenda Item
208142
Ordinance Ordained.
Jun 27, 2019 7:00 PM

Banning the usage of facial recognition technology in Somerville.

Information

Department:City CouncilSponsors:Ward Three City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen, Ward Four City Councilor Jesse Clingan, City Councilor At Large Wilfred N. Mbah, Ward Six City Councilor Lance L. Davis, Ward One City Councilor Matthew McLaughlin, Ward Seven City Councilor Katjana Ballantyne, Ward Two City Councilor Jefferson Thomas ("J.T.") Scott, City Councilor At Large Mary Jo Rossetti, City Councilor At Large William A. White Jr.
Category:OrdinancePurposes:Ordinance

Official Text

See attachment.

Amendments / Conditions

AMENDED:              In the definition of "Somerville official," add the words "City of" immediately after the phrase "on behalf of the".

Meeting History

May 9, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting

Councilor Ewen-Campen said that facial recognition technology could allow the government to track the whereabouts of essentially every person at any time with no clear regulations. Research has shown that the existing technology is not particularly accurate and is less accurate with people, especially women, of darker skin. He proposed a ban on the use of this type of surveillance in Somerville until we come up with transparent regulations for its use. He sponsored Emiliano Falcon from the ACLU, who spoke on behalf of the proposed Ordinance.

RESULT:REFERRED FOR RECOMMENDATION
Jun 24, 2019 6:30 PM Video Legislative Matters Committee Committee Meeting

Councilor Ewen-Campen spoke on this matter and said that the administration has some concerns regarding enforcement and Mr. Wright told the committee that an ordinance requiring some form of discipline would have to be collectively bargained. Councilor Ewen-Campen asked that representatives from the ACLU be allowed to address the committee.

Councilor McLaughlin recused himself.

Mr. Wright thinks Section 3 (A) (B) (C) (D) are not enforceable since they fall under state statute. He explained that the city can't give someone permission to sue it, however, if state or federal law says someone can sue a city, then it's permissible. A municipality is not allowed to create a cause of action by ordinance. He also said that if there were an ordinance that was violated by the city, then there could possibly be some injunctive relief available. Chairman Niedergang asked if the enforcement section could be re-written by Law Department in thie for this week’s City Council meeting.

Councilor Davis asked if there could still be a cause of action against the city if the enforcement section was deleted and Kate Cochran from the ACLU responded that she would have to research that. Councilor Davis stated that he doesn't have enough information to proceed. Chairman Niedergang asked the parties to return for the next committee meeting.

Councilor Ewen-Campen’s motion to go into Executive Session was approved on a Roll Call vote of 4 in favor (Councilors Davis, Ballantyne, Ewen-Campen, Niedergang), none against, and 2 absent (McLaughlin, Clingan). The committee moved into Executive Session at 10:10 PM.

The committee returned from Executive Session at 10:28 PM and Chairman Niedergang announced that no votes were taken in Executive Session, other than the vote to adjourn and return to the regular meeting.

Councilor Ewen-Campen spoke on this matter and said that the Administration has some concerns regarding enforcement. Solicitor Wright told the Committee that an ordinance requiring some form of discipline for City employees would have to be collectively bargained with the relevant unions. Councilor Ewen-Campen asked that representatives from the ACLU be allowed to address the committee.

Councilor McLaughlin recused himself.

Mr. Wright thinks Section 3 (A) (B) (C) (D) are not enforceable since they fall under state statute. He explained that the City can't give someone permission to sue it, however, if state or federal law says someone can sue a city, then it's permissible. A municipality is not allowed to create a cause of action by ordinance. He also said that if there were an ordinance that was violated by the City, then there could possibly be some injunctive relief available. Chairman Niedergang asked if the enforcement section could be re-written by the Law Department in time for this week’s City Council meeting.

Councilor Davis asked if there could still be a cause of action against the City if the enforcement section was deleted. Kade Cochran from the ACLU responded that she would have to research that. Councilor Davis stated that he doesn't have enough information to proceed. Chairman Niedergang asked if the parties could return for the next Committee meeting.

Councilor Ewen-Campen said he wanted to try to get this resolved tonight if possible, despite the late hour, and he made a motion to go into Executive Session, which was approved on a Roll Call vote of 4 in favor (Councilors Davis, Ballantyne, Ewen-Campen, Niedergang), none against, and 1 absent (McLaughlin ). The Committee moved into Executive Session at 10:10 PM.

The Committee returned from Executive Session at 10:28 PM and Chairman Niedergang announced that no votes were taken in Executive Session, other than the vote to adjourn and return to the regular meeting.

Councilor Ewen-Campen’s motion to replace Section 3 (E) with language provided by the Law Department was approved.

Councilor Ewen-Campen’s motion to retain Sections 3 (A) and (B) and to delete Sections 3 (C) and (D) and to add the following new language: “Nothing in this ordinance shall be construed to limit any individual's rights under state or federal law.”, was approved

Section 3A says what cannot be entered into evidence and Solicitor Wright said the City can't decide what evidence is permissible. Who decides when there is a violation and when something is deleted? Is there an investigation?

Ms. Crockford of the ACLU said the 2nd clause in the last sentence of 3 A should be stricken. Councilor Ewen-Campen agreed.

Councilor Davis’ motion to strike the words “trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury,” from Section 3 (A) was approved.

Councilor Davis’ motion to delete the last sentence from Section 3 (A) was approved.

Solicitor Wright, referring to Section 3 (B), pointed out that the only entity is the City, not a department. Chairman Niedergang asked that the Law Department have opinions on sections of the ordinance that it has doubts about ready for this week’s City Council meeting.

Councilor Davis’ motion to strike the words “respective City department, and the” from Section 3 (B) was approved.

Councilor Ewen-Campen’s motion to replace the title of the ordinance to read as follows: “Banning the usage of facial recognition surveillance technology by the City of Somerville” was approved.

Councilor Ewen-Campen’s motion to insert the words “or verifying” immediately after the word ‘identifying’ in Section 1 (A), was approved.

Councilor Ewen-Campen’s motion replace the word ‘Somerville’ with the word “ordinance” in Section 3 (A), was approved.

Councilor Ewen-Campen’s motion to approve the ordinance, as amended, was approved unanimously for approval by the full Council.

RESULT:APPROVED AS AMENDED
Jun 27, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
RESULT:ORDINANCE ORDAINED. [UNANIMOUS]
AYES:Stephanie Hirsch, Wilfred N. Mbah, Mary Jo Rossetti, William A. White Jr., Matthew McLaughlin, Jefferson Thomas ("J.T.") Scott, Ben Ewen-Campen, Jesse Clingan, Mark Niedergang, Lance L. Davis, Katjana Ballantyne