Civil Rights Groups to Continue Monitoring LAPD’s SAR Program

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Several SoCal Civil Liberty Organizations stated that they will continue monitoring LAPD's Suspicous Activity Reporting program.

(May 23, 2012 - Los Angeles) 

Several Southern California civil liberties and advocacy organizations today stated that they will continue to monitor the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) suspicious activity reporting program (SAR) to ensure that civil liberties concerns previously expressed by the groups are fully resolved.

In a joint statement, the groups said:

“While we acknowledge the LAPD’s efforts to work with our groups to address concerns about potential violations to civil liberties and privacy stemming from its SAR program, the department has to date implemented only a few of the changes it promised. As such, we will reserve judgment until we see an effective resolution to our concerns through policy change and in practice. The SAR program impacts all Angelenos, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. Therefore, as we have worked in good faith with LAPD to help protect Angelenos, we hope that LAPD makes good on its promise to resolve various minority communities’ concerns over unwarranted surveillance and profiling.”

The groups signing on to the above statement are: ACLU of Southern California (ACLU/SC), CAIR-Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA), Coalition For Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), and South Asian Network (SAN).

The SAR program was developed by LAPD in 2008 to systematically report and process information on “suspicious activity.” The latest incarnation of the program in Special Order 1 fell seriously short of addressing concerns raised by advocacy groups in prior years.

In March, the advocacy groups sent a letter to LAPD urging that the agency halt Special Order 1 (SO 1) until civil liberties concerns were adequately addressed. 

The letter stated in part: “By ordering officers to gather information on common, non-criminal and constitutionally-protected activities such as photography or expression of certain viewpoints, without requiring clear standards that the reported activities provide reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the LAPD’s SAR program could potentially lead to compilations of investigative files on the legal activities of everyday Angelenos.”

SEE: The Spread of “Suspicious Activity Reporting” (Salon)

On May 17, officials from CAIR-LA, the ACLU/SC, and MPAC met with Downing to discuss ongoing concerns about the SAR program.

At that meeting, Downing agreed to important changes to the policy, including: clarifying that the policy does not authorize collection or sharing of information on less than reasonable suspicion of criminal or terrorist activity, and that the constitutional requirements for pat-downs, detentions and searches apply equally when investigating suspicious activity.

The groups will continue to push for these and additional changes, as necessary, to ensure the preservation of Angelenos’ civil liberties with respect to LAPD’s SAR program.

Community members are encouraged to contact their respective organizations and familiarize themselves with their civil rights in case of an encounter with law enforcement.

CONTACT: CAIR-LA, Munira Syeda, 714-776-1847, E-mail: info@losangeles.cair.com; CHIRLA, Carl Bergquist, 310-279-6025, E-mail: cbergquist@chirla.org; SALDEF, Birpal Kaur, 213-985-1116, E-mail: info@saldef.org; SAN, Tamia Pervez, Email: tamia@southasiannetwork.org

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