Oakland passes controversial crime fighting measures

July 31, 2013 11:59:59 AM PDT
There are now two controversial new crime-fighting measures on the books in Oakland. The city council argued into the early morning hours before adopting them.

One measure expands surveillance of the city with the use of security cameras. It passed about 30 minutes after midnight and was met with loud disapproval from people at the meeting.

The Department of Homeland Security is giving Oakland $2 million to expand a surveillance program set up at the Port of Oakland in 2008 to protect against a terror attack. The new measure does not add new cameras, but will re-purpose four existing cameras to include parks of Oakland. The city's Domain Awareness Center will use the cameras along with the Oakland's mapping system to create a surveillance center at the Office of Emergency Services.

Council members passed the plan with a voice vote and added some amendments to address civil liberty concerns. The ACLU is opposed to the added surveillance -- saying it could be used to track workers who are trying to organize a union, or citizens going to an AA meeting, or abortion clinic.

The surveillance camera system won't go live until next June.

The other controversial ordinance passed last night has to do with disarming protestors.

Just after 1 a.m., the city council passed a new ordinance that allows police to detain a demonstrator caught with a "tool of violence" -- that could be a hammer or a bike lock -- items people used to shatter windows during a protest of the George Zimmerman verdict earlier this month. A waiter was hit in the face with a hammer during the same protest. The ordinance, aimed at preventing damage and injuries, passed five to zero, but, several council members were not present or abstained from voting.

The ACLU has come out against this ordinance, calling the definitions of "demonstration" and "tools of violence" too broad. One representative asks if a group of plumbers or carpenters is walking down the street together with their tools -- would they be in violation of the law?

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