Council approves five-year contract with Flock Safety

At the City Council meeting on the evening of Monday, May 8, the council voted 3-2 in favor of a contract for Flock Safety Group to provide an automated license plate recognition system.

Action Item 1 on the agenda read, “(1) Approval of a five-year contract with Flock Safety Group to provide an Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) system in an amount not-to-exceed $668,200; and (2) discussion of the Police Department’s automated license plate recognition policy.”

A presentation by the Culver City PD pointed out that, “over 70 percent of crimes committed are associated with the use of a vehicle; ALPR technology has become an industry standard that has proven to be an effective and efficient way for law enforcement to detect, solve, prevent and deter crime in an unbiased manner; Thousands of law enforcement agencies across the nation are utilizing this emerging technology, with successful results.”

The CCPD listed the community benefits of the system as including: locating stolen vehicles that enter the city, locating vehicles entering the city that are wanted in connection to felony crimes, providing CCPD with investigative leads into crimes committed within the city, and detecting vehicles associated with missing/at-risk persons. 

However, while the benefits are clear, critics are concerned about the lack of privacy and attack on civil liberties. Some public speakers stated that Flock has the right to share the information with whomever they choose, but a Flock spokesperson stressed that isn’t the case. The Gardena PD said that it would be against state law to share the information with law enforcement from other states.

Two major causes of concern were raised by Council Member Freddy Puza and addressed in the slide show: “CCPD will NOT share ALPR data with ICE or any agency that will use the information for any type of immigration enforcement,” and “CCPR will not use or share ALPR data for the purpose of investigating and/or participating in the arrest of any person for performing, supporting, or aiding in the performance of an abortion or gender affirming treatment in the state of California.”

Puza and a number of speakers were not calmed by those statements, with questions remaining over the rights to use the data held by Flock itself. But Mayor Albert Vera and Council Members Göran Eriksson and Dan O’Brien were happy that the city staff would be able ensure that the contract is watertight and safe for all, and the vote carried 3-2.

Earlier in the meeting, a Public Hearing to reconsider the council’s 2021 decision to remove two ficus trees in the Galvin Street Parkway saw the vote delayed two weeks while those in favor of removing the trees were offered the opportunity to review and provide new evidence.