Sneaky surveillance

SFPD has been quietly seeking video footage of new bars since losing a public fight over the issue


After public outrage stopped the San Francisco Police Department from instituting controversial — and unconstitutional, say civil libertarians — new video surveillance requirements in bars and clubs more than two years ago, the department quietly began inserting that same requirement into new liquor licenses, a move met with concern at City Hall last week.

In late 2010, the SFPD proposed a draconian set of new security requirements for drinking establishments in the city, including requirements that they do video surveillance and take an image of all patrons' identification cards and make them available to police upon request, without a warrant or any other controls (see "Going to a club — or boarding an airplane?," 12/7/10).

That proposal ran into a wall of opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union, California Music and Culture Association, progressives on the Board of Supervisors, and others, who said such a blanket policy violates privacy protections in the California Constitution. The Entertainment Commission held a hearing on the proposal in April of 2011 and voted unanimously to reject the proposals.

At that point, they seemed to just disappear, but they didn't. Instead, SFPD internally decided at that time to begin asking the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to insert a video surveillance requirement in most new liquor licenses in San Francisco, which escaped public notice until Sup. Scott Wiener raised the issue at the April 2 Board of Supervisors meeting.

"If you have an establishment that perhaps has a track record of bad things happening, that's one thing. But absent that, I don't believe that this is justified," Wiener said as he voted against the requirement in a pair of new liquor licenses. Although Wiener was alone in opposing those applications, Sup. David Campos said he shared Wiener's concern and the pair called an upcoming hearing on the new policy.

Two days later, at the board's Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee meeting, Wiener again raised the issue and sought to have the new requirement removed from a pair of proposed liquor licenses: Cesar's Ballroom on 26th and 3rd streets, the latest project of veteran local club owner Cesar Ascarrunz, and Nosa Ria, a market in Hayes Valley that will import gourmet food and wine from Spain.

"It's the exact opposite of some kind of rowdy bar or nightclub where people are going in and getting drunk and really bad things are happening," Wiener said of Nosa Ria, for which he persuaded fellow Sups. Eric Mar and Norman Yee to vote to remove the video surveillance condition before approving the application.

That condition stated: "The petitioner shall utilize electronic surveillance and recording equipment that is able to view the outside of the premises, including all entrances and exits, and that is actively monitored and recorded. The electronic surveillance shall be utilized during operating hours. Said electronic recording shall be kept at least 30 days and shall be made available to the Department or Police Department upon demand."

Mar said he agreed with Wiener that "a broad discussion of electronic surveillance requirements would be important for this committee," but Mar then voted against removing that condition from the Cesar's Ballroom application, saying, "I think we need surveillance in certain spots on a case-by-case basis, and I think this is an area that needs surveillance."


What is the mechanism behind this irony? Is it like the phenomenon of Democrats voting for imperialist wars?

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 4:55 am

Up next: random retina scans linked to databanks with names and addresses of 'undesirables', and available to LEO 24/7

Posted by pete moss on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 5:56 am

I'm sure my location is recorded on CCTV many times each day. My cell phone effectively triangulates my location constantly, my car has GPS which does the same, and my Clipper card reveals my use of transit. I often have to show ID to enter office buildings, while my own work ID records when I am at the office, and when not.

Ask me why I don't care. Answer: I am not doing anything bad, wrong or suspicious.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 6:04 am

Your an idiot, maybe a cop, and certainly you do things that can be said to be wrong everyday. just need the right agency to watch you. Your body is natural, do you run around naked just because you have nothing to be ashamed of. Your an idiot. An UN-AMERICAN as can be. Privacy is a right. Its not attached anymore to doing right than gun rights are attached to being a hunter. Its a right in the USA.

Posted by Guest guest surveilence on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

I wouldn't mind some random anal probes. I'd be the first to bend over in the name of state security. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.

Posted by anon on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 6:17 am

Absolutely nothing wrong with that as a personal activity.

My problem is that anon seems to not only fantasize about his own anal penetration, but that of all his fellow(?) citizens. That crosses the line.

Big Troll Trope #15 is that non-criminals have nothing to fear from police attention. Nobody in their right mind believes that.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

I've never had a problem with LE.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

for taking the lead on this.

I question the stance that somebody has an expectation of privacy if they go into a gay bar and get outed. But be that as it may, I don't think that this is necessarily even a question of whether the SFPD "can" do this, but whether it "should." Big Brother creep is very troubling to me, and I find the argument "oh, well if you aren't doing anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about" to be the weakest of sauces.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:18 am

I agree, and there's another sneaky aspect to this that I might not have emphasized strongly enough in my article, but which I will in a follow-up blog post that I'm working on now. The SFPD is requiring businesses to keep footage of the street scenes outside their stores and to make that immediately available for any reason and with no warrant. That's a huge departure from the safeguards attached to the 71 crime cameras that the city installed, and a major expansion of the SFPD's ability to spy on us without any judicial or regulatory oversight.

Posted by steven on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:29 am

investigation into activities that happen right outside the store?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:41 am able to require a store to spy on its customers and give police unfettered access to footage with no court oversight? That's the issue here. Businesses already have the right to use video surveillance and cooperate with police if they choose. But not everyone shares your faith in the police to always do the right thing and safeguard civil liberties. Some of us know our history.

Posted by steven on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

you do not think they should co-operate with a police inquiry into crimes in and around their premises?

Is that it?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

Yes, I think Airbnb should follow the law and charge required taxes on the economic transactions it conducts, which is certainly less invasive than expecting each host to be responsible for collecting and paying that tax. And yes, I think businesses should cooperate with lawful criminal investigations, which should in no way be hindered by basic Fourth Amendment protections (such as getting a warrant when necessary) or guidelines for requesting surveillance video that the city established in 2005. What does that have to do with requiring more businesses to conduct video surveillance on their customers and surroundings and turn it over to police with no rules or guidelines?

Posted by steven on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

camera's everywhere and you would be filmed dozens of times a day.

Many criminals have been caught that way, including rapists and murderers, and there is little complaint about it from the ordinary innocent person - indeed, it makes them feel safer.

I'm sorry that you do not like the argument but it really is true that I do not fear being "spied" upon because I know I am doing no wrong. I cannot say that for others and so do want them spied upon.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:34 am

Citizens of London don't have a constitutional right to privacy like we have in California. And England wasn't founded on principles of personal liberty and a wariness of government power like the US was, by people like Benjamin Franklin, who said, "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Posted by steven on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

After all, you think the constitutional right to bear arms is questionable, right?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

Hi, thanks for sharing.

Posted by dog trainer on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 1:25 am

Many criminals have been caught every day. Security cameras and surveillance system has improved our security. Actually Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information. These can even allow the Remote viewing of your business from anywhere.

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