maine capitol

Maine Legislators Working On Bill To Make Law Enforcement Use of Surveillance Tech More Transparent

Law enforcement in Maine have cited a 2013 law stating they are not required to disclose if they are using facial recognition or cellphone signal interceptors. Two lawmakers hope to change that.

Maine lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill that would change a state law used by police to state that they do not have to disclose use of surveillance technology, including facial recognition or cellphone signal interceptors.

Two Democratic legislators, Sen. Shenna Bellows and Rep. Charlotte Warren, told The Portland Press Herald that they are working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine on legislation that would demand more transparency on which technologies are being used by law enforcement across the state.

Previously, the Maine State Police have denied requests from newspapers, including the Maine Sunday Telegram, to confirm or deny which technologies they are deploying in communities. Maine is one of two states with a provision in state law that does not require police to disclose public records related to surveillance technology, according to the ACLU.

One issue facing the legislators taking on the issue is timing. The bill would need to earn special approval from a bipartisan panel to be included in the 2020 session, or else it will have to be put off until the start of the next session in 2021, according to the Press Herald.

“It’s unclear if legislative leadership will permit the bill to be introduced at this late date, but we heard widespread constituent concern when news hit that Maine is one of only two states that allows this level of secret surveillance,” Bellows, a former executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said.

The upcoming legislation comes as cities across the country, including in Maine, consider policies to regulate how law enforcement and government agencies can use facial recognition and other technologies on residents.

In Portland, Maine, City Councilor Pious Ali has proposed a ban on the use of facial recognition by police and city officials. A vote on the measure has been postponed twice and will be discussed again on June 15, the Press Herald reported.

Frank Clark, the chief of police in Portland, opposed the proposal, telling the council in a memo that he is an “advocate of taking advantage of contemporary 21st century technologies to drive better public safety outcomes.” He said that the department does not have immediate plans to acquire facial recognition technology.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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