Surveillance Technology & Military-Type Equipment Study Committee


Bernard Greene, Chair


Marjie Lalli 617-730-2211


At the May 2018 Annual Town Meeting (the “Annual Town Meeting”), the body voted to establish a Select Board committee to study (1) the technology that is being, or could be used by Brookline police and other governmental and private bodies to monitor and surveil Brookline citizens, (2) the actual or potential acquisition by the Brookline police department of military-type equipment, and (3) related issues raised by Warrant Articles 28, 29, and 30 of the Annual Town Meeting.  The Annual Town Meeting voted to direct the committee to present recommendations to the Select Board to address any problems or issues identified in its study.

The Annual Town Meeting recognized that surveillance technology and military-type equipment that may be offered to the Town by the federal government or surveillance technology and military-type equipment that the Town acquires by other means may offer many benefits. But the Annual Town Meeting also recognized that it would be naïve to fail to distinguish those benefits from the potential threat to the civil liberties and values of Brookline residents.

To implement the purposes of Warrant Articles 28, 29, and 30, the Select Board hereby establishes a Surveillance Technology and Military-type Equipment Study Committee (the “Committee”) to study and prepare a report with recommendations and suggestions for implementation (“Report”) to the Select Board on the use and risks associated with such technology and equipment. The Committee shall be organized as follows:

  • The Committee shall be comprised of five residents of Brookline appointed by the Select Board. The Select Board may appoint additional resident voting members to the Committee upon the request of the Committee.
  • The Brookline Chief of Police, or the police chief’s designee, the head of the Information Technology Department, or said department head’s designee, and the Chair of the Critical Infrastructure Monitoring System Oversight Committee, or said chair’s designee, shall also be voting members of the Committee.
  • A majority of the voting members shall be a quorum for the conduct of business.
  • A member of the Select Board shall chair the Committee.

The Committee shall study the issues associated with surveillance technology and military-type equipment, including the use of such equipment in Brookline and any local, state, or federal policies or regulations governing them.  Warrant Articles 28, 29, and 30 should not be the starting point of the study, rather the committee will start fresh, looking at the often different issues presented by surveillance technology and military-type equipment as they relate to the particular realities of Brookline not scenarios that may unfold in other less progressive jurisdictions.  The Committee’s tasks shall include:

  1. To produce “an inventory of all surveillance technology and military-type equipment” used or available for use by the police department or other Town departments, including (i) type, (ii) purpose and uses, (iii) capabilities, including, without limitation, picture resolution and mobility of surveillance devices, (iv) required training, (v) location of, and period of time any video or other images are retained, (vi) location of military-type equipment and who has access to such equipment, (vii) accessibility rights or restrictions on access by the public of surveillance products, and (viii) any other information that the Committee determines to be necessary for the preparation of its Report. 
  2. To distinguish technologies and equipment that need high level oversight from those that require less or no oversight, such as security cameras in the library or schools or computer monitoring software that is used to protect students.
  3. To review surveillance and data gathering by regional or national organizations, such as the Boston Regional Information Center, and determine whether Brookline’s voluntary or involuntary relationships with such organizations needs additional oversight, transparency, or controls.
  4. To examine existing state laws and regulations and Town bylaws governing private cameras and existing practices in Brookline and include in its recommendations any suggested protections that the Town can provide against their misuse.
  5. To review police department policies and procedures, bylaw provisions, and any union or other contract provisions as they relate to surveillance technologies, including body cameras, cruiser mounted cameras, and street surveillance cameras, and military-type equipment.
  6. To collect and review explanatory and technical information as necessary in the performance of the Committee’s tasks and consult with experts or other knowledgeable persons on the subjects of this Charge.
  7. To produce the Report for submission to the Select Board. In preparing its Report, the Committee shall (i) hold at least one public hearing and take for its consideration the comments of the public, (ii) prepare a draft of the Report with a preliminary list of recommendations, incorporating any appropriate comments from the public hearing, (iii) present the preliminary recommendations to the Chief of Police, Town Counsel, and the Town Administrator for their comment as to feasibility and compliance with Town bylaws, contractual obligations, or federal or state requirements, and (iv) meet to vote on the final Report, including recommendations that incorporate any agreed comments of the Chief of Police, Town Counsel, and the Town Administrator.

If, in connection with the above tasks, the Chief of Police, Town Administrator, or Town Counsel raises a concern that any information sought by the Committee is exempt from disclosure under the Massachusetts Public Records Law or for some other reason should not be disclosed or discussed in a public meeting of the Committee, the Committee’s chair shall meet with the person raising the concern to be briefed on the reasons for the concern and discuss alternative information or alternative ways of sharing such information with the Committee, including redacted information or information provided in an executive session meeting of the Committee.

Following the Committee’s vote on the final Report, the Committee shall present the Report to the Select Board.   

Following acceptance of the Report by the Select Board, the Committee shall disband.

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