NEW YORK (December 15, 2023)  – Today, the Council’s Committees on Technology and Public Safety jointly held an oversight hearing addressing the New York Police Department’s lack of compliance with the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, as well as the Office of Technology and Innovation’s role in procurement and ensuring adherence to the City’s technology guidelines. In 2022, the NYPD’s own Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that the NYPD was not fully compliant with the POST Act’s intent to ensure transparency, accountability, and the protection of civil liberties and issued recommendations to strengthen their reports. 

Council Members questioned the lack of new IUPs for novel surveillance technologies like Digidogs (K5) and Robocops, which are categorized under a single IUP, despite differences in the technology from those previously covered by the IUP. These concerns have also been raised by NYPD’s OIG, as well as civil rights advocates. The NYPD testified that they did not consider new IUPs necessary for these newly procured robots, because they consider technologies like Robocops iterative of existing situational awareness cameras. The NYPD did not address how the expansion of surveillance capacity through these robots, and the perceived need for this technology, wouldn’t inherently warrant new IUPs. They also cited “public confusion” multiple times as a primary rationale for issuing fewer Impact and Use Policies (IUPs) than the number of novel technologies procured would otherwise require by law. The Commissioner of the Department of Investigations also testified that the grouping of multiple technologies into a single IUP category can obscure the technologies and uses. 

Mayor Adams recently announced a series of new technology rollouts, including the Digidog and the use of drones. NYPD Deputy Commissioner Maddrey confirmed their intentions to expand this technology, based on the recent success of drones in managing safety at large gatherings. Maddrey committed to establishing a mechanism to inform Council Districts about drone deployments, and that deployments are made exclusively by him or his command. The two Digidogs, each costing $750,000, have been deployed five times. NYPD testified that they do not use predictive policing software, or AI technology (other than previously existing AI in vendor technologies). The NYPD testified that they were exploring the use of voice analytics software Truleo, and affirmed a commitment to issuing a new Individual Use Policy (IUP) if procured.

In an interview earlier this year, OTI Commissioner Fraser asserted that all technology funding requests and project approvals undergo review by OTI. However, during the hearing, it was clear that OTI does not oversee the entire procurement process of NYPD technologies, only specific elements. OTI did confirm that, based on recently updated citywide privacy language for contracts, any changes to that language now require approval from the Chief Privacy Officer. Concerns were also raised about the safety sharing of data collected by the NYPD.

“I’m disappointed, but not surprised, by the opaque information provided by the NYPD in today’s hearing regarding the NYPD’s lack of compliance to the POST Act. The NYPD either does not comprehend the fundamental purpose of the POST Act, transparency and accountability, or it is willfully disregarding the intended goals,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez.While I appreciate that knowledgeable NYPD staff attended the hearing, the logic cited in testimony was nonlinear, giving NYPD carte blanche to act with impunity, with a notable absence of clarity surrounding Individual Use Policies (IUPs). It’s crucial that we address these deficiencies to ensure transparency and uphold the principles of accountability set forth by the POST Act.”

“When the Council passed and Mayor signed The POST Act, it became the law in New York City — not a constructive suggestion, not a helpful guideline, not a discretionary option: the law. How does the NYPD expect us to have faith in their enforcement of laws, when they refuse even to obey them. It’s time for the NYPD to quit playing word games and coming up with phony ‘interpretations’ and instead come into compliance with the law,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán.

Advocates and experts from groups including STOP, NYCLU, Legal Aid Society, Brennan Center, Brooklyn Defenders and the Department of Investigation, who said their upcoming report will detail the use of the new technologies like K5, Robocop and drones. 

Full recording can be found here.