Tuesday, December 4, 2012

St Paul City Council take time to know what you do

The St Paul City Council at it's December 5, 2013 meeting will be discussing and voting on their 2013 Legislative package(Item 25 on agenda).  Tucked in the the city's legislative desires is a simple sentence which says:

"Support a classification for criminal intelligence data consistent with our partners in law enforcement."

Now when I became aware of this I asked myself three questions:

Do the City Council members know anything about this issue and what it means?

Are they aware of the contentiousness of the proposal and debate about criminal intelligence at the Legislature for the past several years?

And does the public have a right to make comments on this proposal?

My answer was no.

So what I did I sent an email to members of the St Paul City Council and staff stating to them this was not a simple act of passing a one sentence statement, but can have:

1. Impact on individual civil liberties and privacy.

2. Allows for innocent and law-abiding people to be placed in files and databases at a low threshold of reasonable suspicion.

3. Consequences of First Amendment activities being monitored and under surveillance by law enforcement.

4. Issues of racial profiling by law enforcement, and

5. Have less accountability and transparency of law enforcement activities by making public data secret.

This afternoon I decided to follow up with the lobbyist for the City of St Paul and also some Council members.  The lobbyist was not pleased with my email.  We had some discussion.  Her perspective is the St. Paul Police are asking for the City Council to support this position.  I basically said that this is and has been a contentious issue at the Legislature for several years.  It is important to let City Council members know that, I stated.  I got the impression she did not feel the one sentence support for making data secret was not a big deal.

I then met with two City Council members ever so briefly about the email I sent.  One member had just read it and had to think about it.  Another Council member was gracious enough to speak with me and give me a copy of the St Paul Police Department response.  We bantered for a minute or two more and then I was struck by the elected officials remark saying "It doesn't matter."   The comment was in response about possibly removing the "Support a classification for criminal intelligence data consistent with our partners in law enforcement."

I took the remark to mean that generally nobody cares about a 14 word sentence being a part of the 2013 St Paul Legislative package.

I care and I think many other residents in St Paul do.

By voting in favor of a "criminal intelligence classification" proposal allows law enforcement to keep secret information on individuals who police think may commit a crime. The low threshold used to get into the intelligence file is reasonable suspicion. Should government be collecting information on people who are law-biding in their secret files?  How are First Amendment activities protected from surveillance?  What information that has been public for decades in Minnesota no longer will be?  Who will the information be shared with?  What information that is now public will no longer be public and made secret?  Where is the accountability and transparency?

"It does matter" members of the St Paul City Council, how you vote on legislative proposals.  By supporting proposals you are speaking for 285,000 people.

The St Paul City Council having recently voted to payout $300,000 plus to Anne Marie Rasmusson should be mindful of the creation of new databases and law which creates similar situations and penalties.

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