Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez today informed the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida that the department will not be pursuing a grant-funded program for wide-area surveillance planes.

Responding to the chief’s decision, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon stated:

In advance of a meeting scheduled for later today with representatives of the ACLU of Florida and its Miami Chapter, Miami-Dade Police Director Perez informed us in an email this morning that the Miami-Dade Police Department is “scrapping” the wide area aerial surveillance project.

We are grateful to everyone in the community who spoke out about their concerns with this proposed mass surveillance system, and to Director Perez for hearing those concerns. We also wish to express our thanks to Commissioner Sally Heyman for pulling this from the agenda of last week’s County Commission meeting so the matter could be discussed in a public hearing with opportunity for public input.

This is how the process is supposed to work: decisions about what technology law enforcement agencies are using should be made in the open with input from the public and their elected representatives, rather than through a fast-track grant process – in which, as in this case, Commissioners were asked to give retroactive approval.

We also know that there are better ways to combat crime and foster stronger relationships between law enforcement and the communities they protect, such as community policing, rather than placing entire neighborhoods under surveillance and sow mutual distrust.

We expect that, if he hasn’t already, Director Perez will let the Department of Justice know that this community is no longer interested in participating in this experiment in mass surveillance – becoming the only community in the country to deploy wide-area aerial surveillance after similar programs were shut down in other cities.

We look forward to meeting with Director Perez about additional ways the police can keep all of us safe while still respecting the constitutional right to privacy guaranteed to the people of Florida.

The ACLU of Florida had previously expressed serious concerns about the proposed program. A June 2 statement from the organization expressing those concerns is available here: aclufl.org/press-releases/aclu-florida-statement-miami-dade-police-departments-proposal-aerial-surveillance

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