SAN DIEGO - Documents obtained by Team 10 show the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department using technology from a company that makes controversial cellphone trackers.
The Stingray technology has come under scrutiny from civil rights groups. The Stingray acts like a traveling cell tower, collecting data from cellphones.
Law enforcement agencies refuse to talk in detail about Stingrays. A public records request shows the San Diego Police Department did buy equipment from Harris Corporation, the company that makes the technology.
The purchase order, addressed to the Office of Homeland Security, was highly redacted. It only showed the $33,000 cost of the equipment.
"The problem with this kind of technology is that it amounts to a dragnet search of everyone in the vicinity … hundreds, if not thousands of innocent third parties," said David Loy, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties.
Law enforcement in the Bay Area applied for surveillance technology from Harris Corporation in 2012. The application from the San Jose Police Department showed several agencies – including San Diego Police and San Diego Sheriff's – use Harris products.
The Bay Area UASI FY 2012 Project Proposal Form showed:
"The San Jose Police Department has done extensive research and has contacted police agencies, in California, that utilize this type of technology. These agencies include San Francisco PD, Oakland PD, Los Angeles PD, San Diego PD, Sacramento Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Each of these agencies utilize Harris products…"
The application also said:
"Research of the product consisted of testing by San Jose Police and technology and equipment feedback from the U.S. Marshalls [sic] Service… the Oakland Police Department, The Sacramento Sheriff's Department, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department."
The same documents also cite that equipment from Harris Corporation "are not for public knowledge and are protected under non-disclosure agreements."
"Without even basic information about how the technology is being used or what even the technology is, the public cannot exercise its core function of holding government accountable," Loy said.
Loy feels the law has not caught up with technology so that consumers can be protected.
This week, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department finally admitted that they possess and utilize cellphone spying technology, following a lengthy investigation by KXTV, the ABC affiliate in Sacramento.
Lt. Kevin Mayer with the San Diego Police Department released this statement to Team 10:
"It is a standard operating practice of the Department to not disclose certain investigative tools and technology used to combat crime due to a variety of factors including compromising ongoing criminal investigations and revealing tactics used to gather intelligence information. For these reasons, I will not be able to speak on this topic."
Team 10 has also put in a records request with the San Diego Sheriff's Department for documents related to Stingray technology. The request is pending.