Aug 042018
 

Many protesters observed the use of multiple drones at the West Contra Costa County Detention Center on June 30, 2018, during a protest against ICE and its practice of family separation. Journalist Darwin BondGraham wrote about this in an East Bay Express article on July 3, 2018. Documents released in response to a public records request indicated that the drone was also flown over the June 26, 2018, protest at the same facility.

The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s drone (or unmanned aerial vehicle/system) program was started in 2016. The agency purchased its first drone on September 7, 2016, a DJI Phantom 4, from Fry’s Electronics on Willow Pass Road for $1,685.14. The drone was returned and exchanged for the same model on September 13, 2016.

Despite the purchase of a drone in 2016, the Contra Costa County Sheriff did not have a policy for drones (referred to as Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) until January 5, 2017. The policy is “CCCSO General Policy and Procedure Section 1.06.84 – Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS).”

Page 3 of the drone policy lists 10 “authorized missions” for drones, but none appear to cover the large peaceful protests at the West Contra Costa County Detention Center. Retention of data collected by the drones but not of evidentiary value is not detailed in the policy, but is the same as the “CCCSO General Policy and Procedure Section 1.06.82 – Mobile Audio and Body-worn Camera,” which states:

All video/audio recordings that are not booked into evidence in the form of a CD, DVD or other “hard” copy format, will be retained in storage for a period of two years, after which they will be deleted. Recordings relevant to on-going criminal proceedings must be retained for so long as the prosecution is pending.

However, a significant loophole allows indefinite retention of data collected by drones if the Special Operations Division Commander decides that it is useful for “training and development.”

A public records request for copy of any video or photos collected by drones during the June 30, 2018, protest received the following response from the Contra Costa County Sheriff:

With respect to your second and third requests for “All photos and video” taken on June 30, 2018 at the West County Detention Facility, such photos and video, to the extent that they exist or may exist, are subject to the exclusions set forth in the Public Records Act for “security procedures of … or any investigatory or security files compiled by any … local agency for correctional [or] law enforcement … purposes,” and accordingly are not subject to the Public Records Act (Government Code §6254(f)).

On January 10, 2017, Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems invoiced the Contra Costa County Sheriff $16,574.75 for a DJI Inspire I drone, DJI Zenmuse XT (a thermal imaging camera), DJI Zenmuse Z3 integrated aerial zoom camera, and a variety of related supplies.

Shortly thereafter, on March 1, 2017, the Contra Costa County Sheriff logged its first drone mission, to inspect a landslide on Morgan Territory Road the occurred on February 24, 2017. The second drone mission was also on March 1, 2017, this time for a civil eviction on Byron Hot Springs Road “Due to a history of threats against the police and drug activity.”

The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s log of drone missions details 25 missions from March 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. The log details DJI Inspire drone flights at the West Contra Costa County Detention Center on June 26 and June 30, 2018. Lt. David Cook requested and approved use of the drone on both days. Deputy Casey Tholborn was the pilot on June 26 and Deputy Hall was the pilot on June 30. The logs refer only to Drone 1, a DJI Phantom 4, and Drone 2, a DJI Inspire 1, despite the eventual purchase of a third drone.

The most recent drone purchase by the Contra Costa County Sheriff was a DJI Phantom 4 from B&H Photo for $899 on March 8, 2018.

Like body cameras, law enforcement agencies have complete control of any data gathered by the drones, so it is unclear how exactly drones are used for peaceful protests, such as the June 26 and June 30, 2018, protests at the West Contra Costa County Detention Center. Without any transparency regarding the use of drones, there will continue to be no oversight and accountability of law enforcement use of equipment that can be and has been used for surveillance.

In addition to the lack of transparency, the federal government has expressed concerns about DJI (Da Jiang Innovations) providing “Critical Infrastructure and Law Enforcement Data to Chinese Government” and the US Army warned to “Discontinue Use of Dajiang Innovation (DJI) Corporation Unmanned Aircraft Systems” based on a May 25, 2017, report by the Army Research Laboratory entitled “DJI UAS Technology Threat and User Vulnerabilities” and a May 24, 2017, US Navy memo entitled “Operational Risks with Regards to DJI Family of Products.”

Jul 092018
 
Alameda County District Attorney Has Cell Phone Unlocking Tool

The Alameda County District Attorney has had a tool for unlocking cell phones since at least 2016. The tool is made by Cellebrite, an Israeli company, that markets tools for extracting data from cell phones to governments, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement agencies. According to a February 2018 Forbes article, Cellebrite can reportedly unlock iPhones up to and including the iPhone X running iOS 11.2.6. However, Apple introduced USB restricted mode in iOS 11.4.1 on July 9, 2018, which may impact Cellebrite’s ability to break into locked iPhones. The difficulty of law enforcement in obtaining access to locked iPhones has […]

Jun 102018
 
Fremont: 14.5 million vehicles scanned in 11 months

According to data from the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), the city of Fremont collected 14.5 million license plates and photos from license plate readers located throughout the city from December 2016 to October 2017. The installation of stationary license plate readers was approved by the Fremont City Council on July 14, 2015, without any public comment or discussion during the meeting. Of the 28 jurisdictions sending license plate reader data to NCRIC, Fremont collects the third-highest amount of data, behind Vallejo (21.7 million) and Piedmont (21.3 million). NCRIC is a regional fusion center that provides a license plate […]

Mar 242018
 
Urban Shield Trust Fund paid for trips to Israel, parking tickets and paint jobs

On July 31, 2007, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved the establishment of “a cash fund in which to deposit donations, sponsorship and exhibitor fees and make payments for associated costs;” for Urban Shield. Expenses and revenues for that trust fund were received in response to a public records request to the Alameda County Sheriff. In 2008 and 2009, the Urban Shield trust fund lists $7,634 for legal expenses. However, the nature of those expenses was redacted by the Alameda County Sheriff. Two round trip tickets to Israel were expended from the Urban Shield trust fund in 2008, but […]

Nov 222017
 
Alameda County Sheriff Installed License Plate Reader at Highland Hospital Emergency Room Entrance

The Center for Human Rights and Privacy recently discovered that the Alameda County Sheriff installed a license plate reader at the entrance to Highland Hospital’s emergency room. The information was included in a list of 29 agencies that submit license plate reader to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), a local joint fusion center. However, when the East Bay Times asked about its license plate readers in February 2017, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office reported that it had about six license plate readers, mounted to patrol cars and didn’t mention the license plate reader at Highland Hospital. Although the […]

Aug 052017
 
Solano County Sheriff Gets Initial Funding for Project Skynet

With a nod to Terminator’s self-aware computer network, the Solano County Sheriff in Northern California has applied for and received partial funding for Project Skynet, a network of surveillance cameras and automated license plate readers (ALPRs). Project Skynet would install 160 ALPRs and 124 surveillance cameras at 66 locations throughout Solano County. In its response to a request for public records, Daniel Wolk, Deputy County Counsel for Solano County noted, “this is at the proposal stage and specifics, including camera locations, have not been decided upon.” Like the ring of stationary ALPRs around the City of Piedmont, the goal of […]

Oct 252016
 
Harris' Aerial Surveillance System Demonstrated at Urban Shield 2015

Harris Corporation demonstrated its CorvusEye aerial surveillance system at the annual Urban Shield event organized by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in 2015. The aerial surveillance system was used as part of a water supply sabotage scenario at Dunsmuir Reservoir in Oakland. The CorvusEye aerial surveillance system was developed by defense contractor Exelis, which Harris Corp. purchased in 2015. According to Harris’ web site, CorvusEye can provide continuous monitoring and tracking over a 2.7 square mile (7 square km) are during the day and 1.2 square miles (3.1 square km) at night. Harris’ CorvusEye is a competitor to the system […]

Oct 252016
 
Militarization of the East Bay Regional Park Police

The East Bay Regional Park District Police received machine guns and a grenade launcher from the U.S. military under the 1033 program. According to documents released in response to a public records request, the East Bay Regional Park District Police received 10 M16 rifles and an M79 grenade launcher in December 2013 and January 2014. The weapons are likely used by the department’s SWAT team, which also has a BATT armored personnel carrier.

Sep 052016
 
Half of Alameda County Sheriff's Office Surveillance Cameras Installed on Private Property

Half of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office’s 10 surveillance cameras have been installed on private property, including gas stations, a liquor store, and a pharmacy. The cameras are directed toward the street and intersections and do not appear to be intended to provide surveillance of the private property where they are installed. The first two surveillance cameras were installed on the Walgreens building located at 15850 E 14th Street in unincorporated San Leandro. Five more surveillance cameras were installed later in 2007, including one overlooking the Lighthouse Worship Center, one at a 7-11, and one between two houses on Elgin Way. […]

Sep 012016
 

     A broad coalition of local and state advocates are calling upon Governor Jerry Brown to issue an Executive Order directing Attorney General Kamala Harris to take jurisdiction and control over the investigations of all allegations arising out of the involvement of any member of a law enforcement agency with the rape victim identified as Celeste Guap.         Public safety requires public trust.  We find ourselves in the midst of a crisis in public safety. The very police officers that are charged to protect and serve the public have been exposed as engaging in a conspiracy of sex trafficking. […]