Following months of uncertainty regarding the low-profile rollout of San Diego's so-called smart streetlights, equipped with spy cams, shot-spotters, and related intelligence gathering gear, officials have called a community meeting in Southeastern San Diego to tell the public what they have wrought.
The session, to be held at 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday, March 13 at the Malcolm X Library Multipurpose Room, 5148 Market St, is intended to tamp down growing skepticism regarding costs, police policy, and expanded surveillance potential of the system, sources say, and comes amidst a late effort to ratify a draft policy governing use of the installation by police.
Work on the policy began last August, according to San Diego Police Lt. Jeff Jordon, but as of Monday, March 11 was still awaiting signoff by department officials, as well as by the San Diego Police Officers Association. Under its agreement with the city, the labor group holds so-called "meet and confer" review authority over the surveillance system and its potential uses, Jordon said.
Police union concerns are said to include whether the fruits of surveillance might be used against cops performing arrests and other duties. Jordon added that the POA board was scheduled to act on the policy by the end of Monday, March 11, and that a final document might be released to the public as early as Wednesday's community meeting. following signoffs by police brass.
Until the announcement of Wednesday's scheduled meeting, details of the police policy and other potential controversies have been kept under wraps. In addition to high-definition video cameras that provide extensive coverage of public streets and sidewalks, the Smart City Platform features so-called shot-spotter devices, controversial both for their privacy limiting implications as well as lack of reliability.
Jordon said Monday that the shot-spotters of Smart City, involving as many as 4000 so-called surveillance nodes, have not yet been activated, pending decisions regarding next year's budget.
Also in the works is a video management plan with security vendor Genetech, a Montreal-based firm noted for its license plate reading devices for use by the D.E.A. Jordon says San Diego's system employs neither license plate readers nor facial surveillance technology. and does not use "pan-tilt-zoom capabilities."
Since the streetlight nodes began initial operation last year, he added, between 30 and 40 videos have been provided for law-enforcement-related review to San Diego police by system vendor Current, Powered by GE.
The company was a subsidiary of General Electric until its sale was announced in November to American Industrial Partners, a Wall Street private equity firm.
Jordon said that Current-provided video from the system that he has reviewed, including some to be introduced at an April court hearing, has been electronically screened to block out inadvertent intrusions into private surroundings, a process referred to as curtilage.
However, another source familiar with San Diego's situation maintains that the system's curtilage technology hasn't always worked, potentially exposing non-public property to improper video surveillance.
Another concern involves what is said to be repeated failures of so-called public functions of the system, including links to "static data" that the city has posted online regarding parking, vehicle counts, pedestrian counts, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure.
Following the announcement of its sale by General Electric, Current revealed last month that it was switching the computer server hosting San Diego's system from GE-owned Predix to Amazon Web Services, run by the online retail giant, raising fresh questions about future reliability and transition costs for officials to address Wednesday.