The Oakland City Council voted, 5-4, to keep the Domain Awareness Center (DAC) with measures to scale-back surveillance to only the Port of Oakland going forward into Phase 2 of the project. Mayor Jean Quan made the tie-breaking vote for Councilmember Desley Brooks’ motion late in a meeting soured by apprehension.

In an open letter to the city on Tuesday, Mayor Quan suggested dialing back the DAC and citywide tracking while toughening safeguards. “We know the government doesn’t get to simply say ‘trust us’ and carry on: we have to earn that trust on a daily basis.” But with the “not if, but when” scenario of an earthquake or natural disaster, Quan wrote that the city’s firefighters, police officers and emergency medics need every resource to save time and lives.

Brooks’ suggestions include cutting ShotSpotter technology, removing many cameras from city streets, and making sure local, state, and federal agencies can’t access data without a written Memorandum of Understanding from the council. The motion won support from Council President Patricia Kernighan and councilmembers Dan Kalb and Larry Reid with some disagreement over the police and fire computer-aided dispatch (CAD). It was unclear just how much data would be stored and available through CAD,  about victims and suspects, but it was determined this real-time information is necessary for coordinating first responders  during emergencies.

Councilmemebers Noel Gallo, Libby Schaaf, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Rebecca Kaplan opposed the measure, citing costs to the city, especially in the long run. Kaplan argued the DAC came without any  IT support, which the much-understaffed city would have to supply without compensation. Schaaf said she was uncomfortable proceeding without ground rules on privacy rights.

While the “port-only”option goes a long way to rein in city surveillance, many activists saw the vote as a missed opportunity to stop the DAC all together. Some 149 speaker tickets were turned in during the agenda’s Open Forum, and the crowd, including dozens of members from the Lighthouse Mosque in North Oakland, unanimously spoke out against the center.  Many feared entrapment or abuse, and argued that the DAC only fueled mistrust. How the council voted, many speakers pointed out, would help or haunt them during mid-term elections.

The votes were made at approximately 1AM Wedesday.

Watch the story unfold on Twitter with #DAC and #oakmtg 

(image via Dustin Craun)

Added 11:4 am: How council members voted
For those interested, here is how the Oakland City Council voted on the DAC last night:





Quan: Tie-breaker– Yes

6 Responses

  1. Aaron Parr

    It is interesting to see how the vote went on this one, and what was voted on. First of all it appears superficially that the approved motion is a step in the right direction, despite the problem that it allows DAC to proceed, and it is clear to me that that is what Quan cast her vote for.

    I am not impressed with Quan’s statement that she would work to restore as much of the DAC as politically feasible in a piecemeal fashion while suggesting that the public fears about the DAC are unjustified – being merely a thoughtless reaction to the Snowden revelations. I do not know how to respond to that other than to give her the benefit of the doubt (as we so often do). She may not want to expose us all to the latest efforts of the federal gov’t to keep a lid on us all, but she is so out of touch that we need to elect a different mayor, someone who understands the times we all live in.

    Also I am particularly surprised to see Gallo voting against this measure, since he was a strong supporter of the DAC. It is not clear to me what his motivation is and I would like to hear what he has to say. Did he vote against the restriction of the DAC? Or did he realize that the DAC effectively criminalizes all of his constituents? Or was he persuaded by the substantial numbers of privacy group members in his district that oppose the DAC?

    It is hard to say. I feel they are just playing politics. Yet again funding of the DAC has gone forward, but at least they are responding to us, and recognize that we don’t want it.

    I think the way forward is to protect those that work at the Port. The surveillance system will be a threat to every employee of the port, and needs to be removed along with a Public statement addressed to the federal agencies that dangled the grant in front of all of us which makes it clear that the Citizens of Oakland do not trust these security agencies and so the City and Port can not accept any funding from the federal government for security related projects.

    The only real way forward is for all City gov’ts to provide sanctuary to their citizens from the NSA and all of their public private partners.

  2. Maximillien

    It’s really frustrating to see how the conversation about this is dominated by the same reactionary buzzwords and misguided emotional appeals, repeated over and over…

    “The DAC will criminalize us all!”
    No; the DAC will criminalize people that its surveillance network sees committing crimes. Otherwise known as ‘criminals’.

    “The surveillance system is a threat to all civilians!”
    No; robbers, gang members, drug dealers, kids with guns, rapists and murderers are a threat to all civilians. Cameras, plate readers and shot-spotters are not a threat to any law-abiding citizen.

    “The DAC is Big Brother turning our city into a Police State!”
    Okay, now you’re just repeating words that sound scary. Go actually read ‘1984’ and come back to me.

    Cameras catch criminals. Countless news stories tell of commercial surveillance cameras capturing the critical details needed to catch and convict the scumbags that befoul our great cities. Oakland doesn’t have enough police to adequately handle the city’s crime, and anything that doesn’t require more ‘boots on the ground’ can help. Even if you’re ideologically opposed to any and all surveillance, as many are, the question of Oakland’s DAC is a question of priorities…which is worse: the police having the power to know where your car was driving last night, or another innocent kid getting shot up at a sleepover? Cameras catch criminals, and considering that fact, the passionate anti-DAC folks start to sound more and more like the “no snitching” crowd that has enabled our great city to hover near the top of the ‘highest crime’ rankings for years. So before you decry the DAC, think about what your priorities are.

  3. JR

    First of all, Ditto to what Maximillien said.


    Glad that this went through. I was disappointing that the city caved in the first time to a bunch of loudmouth out of town cowards with masks on their faces. Hopefully cameras will expand to my neighborhood and the areas that need it the most.

    I get updates from our OPD officers on NextDoor and twitter asking for helping catching criminals who have done horrible things to fellow residents of Oakland. The overwhelming majority of the ones that get caught are the ones that have a picture attached. Same goes with SeeClickFix with the illegal dumpers and graffiti vandals.

    To the people who are against this, what are your ideas to curb crime around here? These cameras are a deterrent and an aid to catch people doing unspeakable acts, to be against this is to give the criminals that much more of an edge.

    Thank goodness the internet is around and honest folks are able to know that some crazies are trying to shut down a good program like this. It lets us write our city council members without having to deal with the insanity that is a City of Oakland council meeting.

  4. R2D2II

    “To the people who are against this, what are your ideas to curb crime around here?”

    Are you referring to the pols, cynical/uninformed/politically reactionary as usual? Or to the regular folks who want to reduce crime, provide jobs for the jobless and make Oakland a better town to live in?

    The bottom line is that Oakland has no crime plan, no strategy, only a patchwork of ideas piled together in reaction to the most recent sense of crisis in Council chambers.

    A few months ago, the Council was all in favor of the largest-possible DAC expansion. Why? Because it meant getting some grants, money flowing into Oakland from the feds, etc. No strategic plan into which a DAC might fit. No awareness of privacy issues. No questioning of whether the receipt of grants would involve more long-term costs for Oakland.

    Then there was the Council meeting where citizens said “no spying on us.” Pro-DAC Councilmembers, especially those running for mayor said “oh-oh” and shifted into reverse. Schaaf for instance.

    Bottom line, now and forever. We cannot depend on the clowns in city hall to look out for our interests. They look out for one thing: their remaining in office or stepping up to the next rung of their personal ladder.

    New thinking needed in city hall, regarding DAC and everything else.

  5. Oakie

    I watched video of one of the DAC meetings and it was astonishing how little these fools on the CC comprehend. I would be happy to explore ways in which surveillance could be used, carefully, to improve the safety of our residents. But it was clear from watching that none of the people running our city have a clue as to how to govern responsibly.

    Sadly, we will probably lose our Shot Spotter stats. I regret not having that available to prove that this city has not put a dent in our violent crime problem, only the apparent decline in marksmanship of the criminals. Day after day we have 1 to several persons hit with gunfire but not killed. We currently have 39 or 41 murders to date (depending on whether the stats are accurate or OPD is juking the stats again) and it was 45 this time last year. Just a few inches separate an injury from a death. We could easily exceed last year’s kill count or even the peak of two or three years ago if these guys were a tiny bit more accurate in their shooting.


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