Across Washington, D.C, local government agencies acquire and use sophisticated surveillance technology with no public oversight or accountability. This poses a direct threat to the civil rights and civil liberties of all District residents and disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income communities. It’s time for us to take control with a campaign for Community Oversight of Surveillance (COS).



For decades now, the federal government has provided substantial funding for local law enforcement agencies across the country to purchase and operate surveillance technologies such as drones, automatic license plate readers, and facial recognition systems. This expansion, which was largely sold with the promise of improving public safety, went unchecked and has now mutated far beyond its original purpose.
Surveillance technologies are frequently acquired in secret and used in secret. Even our local elected officials have no idea what technologies are being used or acquired.
The unchecked use of surveillance technologies by local police departments creates oppressive, stigmatizing environments in which every community member is treated like a prospective criminal. Communities that are already overpoliced–including Black and Brown communities, low-income communities, Muslim communities, immigrant communities, and activist groups–face the greatest threats to their civil rights and civil liberties.
The overuse of surveillance technologies has turned many neighborhoods into fishbowls, and some into virtual prisons, where residents’ public behavior is monitored and scrutinized 24 hours a day.
The ACLU-DC is working with a broad coalition of local groups and activists to end the unchecked surveillance of D.C. communities by local agencies, including law enforcement, and to ensure that D.C. residents have a say in whether, what, and how surveillance technology is acquired and used in the District.
We're working to pass legislation that would require transparency, meaningful public input, and D.C. Council approval for all government uses of surveillance technology.