Privacy SOS

DOJ is funding police surveillance targeting “vulnerable populations”

File under "I wish I were making this up":

The DOJ's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) website brags that DOJ bought a whole lot of GPS trackers for police in 2013. But the way DOJ describes the transfer of surveillance technology to local cops is maybe even more disturbing than the largely secret funding itself:

Tracking Devices for Vulnerable Populations:

GPS trackers for vulnerable populations can be purchased through existing JAG Program funding that has already been made available to 56 states and territories and over 1,100 local jurisdictions across the country. In FY 2013, DOJ awarded almost $280 million in JAG funding.

Presumably DOJ is talking about impoverished communities when it refers to "vulnerable populations." Apparently the federal government is proud that it is funding local police to track poor people?

If this funding and implementation follows existing, long established trends, this surveillance equipment is being used primarily to lock people up for drug crimes. I really don't understand how sending poor people to prison for drug offenses works in the service of already "vulnerable populations" or is something worth bragging about. But there you go.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.