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Records Show CT Cops Helping ICE

License plate readers may record drivers' precise location dozens of times a day. (Aleksejs Bergmanis/pixabay)
License plate readers may record drivers' precise location dozens of times a day. (Aleksejs Bergmanis/pixabay)
March 18, 2019

HARTFORD, Ct. — Recently released records show that eight law-enforcement agencies in Connecticut are helping federal immigration authorities with their surveillance efforts.

The records, released by the American Civil Liberties Union, showed agencies in Fairfield, Westport, Enfield, Wethersfield, Stratford, Trumbull, Norwalk and at Southern Connecticut State University are providing location information from license plate readers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to David McGuire, executive director at the ACLU of Connecticut, that's a potential violation of the state's 2013 TRUST Act, which seeks to protect immigrants by limiting local law enforcement's cooperation with ICE.

"What this revelation shows is that people's very sensitive location data is being shared with federal authorities,” McGuire said. “And that puts a vulnerable population in the crosshairs of ICE - unnecessarily in our mind.”

Officials in Norwalk said there is no agreement with ICE, and it appears ICE has been accessing a cloud-based law-enforcement database used by the Norwalk Police Department.

McGuire pointed out that use of license plate reading technology is spreading rapidly, and Connecticut is considering using license plate readers to collect tolls. That means drivers' precise locations may be monitored dozens of times a day.

"The data creates a very, very detailed digital dossier on every driver in Connecticut,” McGuire observed. “And now we know driving locations and histories are being shared with ICE, and that is very, very problematic."

He said if lawmakers approve legislation to use license plate readers for toll collection, they must adopt strong privacy protections to ensure that data is not used for other purposes.

There is pending legislation that would close loopholes in the TRUST Act, but McGuire noted attempts to limit the ability of local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE have run into stiff opposition from the Connecticut Chiefs of Police Association.

"This report really highlights the need for control over the way police use surveillance technology here,” he said. “And the state of Connecticut needs to step up and pass laws to limit this kind of data sharing."

The ACLU report said more than 80 local law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen states have agreed to share license plate location data with ICE.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT