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ACLU Issues Statement on Police Use of Infrared Technology in Burnside Park

Posted: November 09, 2011|Category: Privacy Category: Right to Petition & Protest

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RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement today in response to news reports that Providence police have used special infra-red technology to determine whether people have been sleeping overnight inside the tents in Burnside Park where the “Occupy Providence” protest is taking place:

“The RI ACLU believes that the Providence police department’s surreptitious use of infra-red technology to determine whether the tents in Burnside Park are occupied at night is troubling on a number of levels.

“The mere fact that police may be entering the park at night solely for the purpose of secretly gathering information is disconcerting in and of itself, but the use of special technology to peer into the occupiers’ tents is especially disturbing. Even if it was only thermal-imaging technology, which detects heat infrared radiation, the invasion of privacy is still substantial.  In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a decade ago that police are required under the Fourth Amendment to obtain a warrant in order to use this type of technology on homes.

“We know that at least some of these tents are, in fact, homes for people who have nowhere else to go. Homeless people do not shed their right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure merely because they do not have a permanent residence. Thus, the use of this technology is not only troubling from a policy perspective, but it raises significant constitutional issues as well.

“We believe the Providence police have thus far shown admirable restraint in dealing with the ‘Occupy Providence’ protest. However, the secretive use of privacy-invasive techniques simply has no place in what has thus far been a peaceful demonstration, and we call on the police department to disavow any further use of this or similar intrusive technology at the park.”

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