MI-CEMI Statement on Police Surveillance Technology

The Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration (MI-CEMI) has prepared this official statement to share our position on the use of surveillance technology as a public safety tool in Michigan cities, including majority Black and Brown cities such as Detroit, Flint, Southfield, Grand Rapids, Pontiac, Ypsilanti Township, among other cities. MI-CEMI does not support the use of surveillance technology by police departments and recognizes that attempts to surveil communities with various technologies are counter to the complex work of our member organizations. MI-CEMI member organizations and individuals are committed to de-carcerating our current punishment systems, developing front-end preventative approaches that deflect and divert people from involvement in the criminal legal systems, and building community-based alternatives to these punishment systems that have deeply harmed Black and Brown communities.  

For decades, many national and local experts have consistently exposed the dangerous and often unconstitutional practices, unfettered power, and over-funding of law enforcement agencies across the United States. Communities around the country are questioning methods connected to claims of purported enhancement of “public safety,” that promote overreliance on the carceral state and police departments.

Law enforcement continues to fight back against what the people most impacted by violence and by over-policing want–less surveillance in communities that put residents’ civil liberties at risk under the false promise of “crime prevention.” Further, corporations vested in such technologies that are built to surveil neighborhoods are making every attempt to expand their territories in order to make money off of municipalities that already suffer from poverty and lack of resources. To put it plainly, these for-profit entities have an inherent conflict of interest that leads them to undersell risks, oversell purported effectiveness, and push aside fundamental concerns with their under-scrutinized technologies to generate revenue. 

As a collaborative, we fully oppose the adoption and expansion of law enforcement surveillance technologies, including:

  • Shotspotter microphone technology
  • Stationary license plate reader cameras and surveillance equipment
  • Face recognition technologies
  • Domestic drones
  • Radio frequency identity chips (RFID)
  • Stingray technologies

We oppose these technologies because they target communities of color, in particular Black communities, and communities that are less resourced. Moreover, they expand the control of law enforcement by plundering government resources to create a police state, which devalues the voice and expertise of community-driven safety solutions that are more effective. Instead of investing in the above surveillance technologies, MI-CEMI advocates for city and state funding to be spent on community enhancements: access to violence interruption and intervention programming, trauma-informed therapies and support groups; high quality education and learning opportunities for young people; employment opportunities and job training; affordable housing and home repairs; resources for our elders; comprehensive medical care; accessible substance addiction treatment and counseling; reliable and efficient public transportation; parks, recreation, safe outdoor and community gathering spaces, and much more. Such measures are more likely to promote public safety while actually working to lessen crime, by ensuring residents’ true needs are more adequately met. 

As Detroit considers a major expansion of Shotspotter technology, we ask that the City Council listen to the people and the available research and stop the expansion of this technology. We also request that City Council develop seats at the table for community members who are engaged in efforts to reimagine safety without reliance on armed law enforcement actors. 

The Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration is a broad-based, statewide, non-partisan collaboration representing non-profit, faith-based, advocacy, grassroots, and service organizations united to end mass incarceration in Michigan. MI-CEMI is dedicated to leveraging individual and organizational power to reduce our prison and jail populations in this state, while also seeking to create and restore safe and healthy communities. MI-CEMI currently has 109 member organizations. 

Drafted by ad-hoc committee of Sheba Rogers, Natalie Holbrook, Erin Keith, and Melina Brann. Approved by the MI-CEMI Steering Team on 9/27/2022


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