The RI ACLU is asking the Providence Police Department to stop videotaping protests until it develops public policies and procedures for this increasingly controversial police tactic.
“That this kind of surveillance is conducted is troubling,” said a letter from the ACLU to Providence Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Pare.” That it has been conducted repeatedly, without oversight or public accountability even after the need for such guidance had been raised with the Department is unacceptable.”
Rachel Simon reported Providence police videotaped Black Lives Matter actions in December. The ACLU mentions that instance, and quotes Simon’s post, and others.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said he does not think the police department needs a policy on recording protests. “I think we have adequate procedures in place,” he said. He also said the ACLU letter cites an incident that Providence police did not record.
Providence police have been videotaping large protests since at least Occupy Providence, Pare said, and noted that Rhode Island State Police did, too. The video is used in case police need to identify someone who commits a crime, he said.
“If you’re interest is to protest lawfully, it shouldn’t have a chilling effect,” Pare said.
Pare said the video is not used for homeland security purposes and is not shared with any other governmental agency.
The ACLU letter says police videotaped a hotel workers protest at the Renaissance Hotel in June 26, 2014 as well as a State House press conference on the Comprehensive Racial Profiling Prevention Act in February, 2013, among others. Pare said it is not true that police videotaped the State House press event.