LOS ANGELES (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of California filed lawsuits Tuesday against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the Anaheim Police Department saying they violated state law by not providing documents on their use of technology that may be used to intercept phone calls or text messages.
The lawsuits were filed in state court by the ACLU’s Northern and Southern California affiliates. They say that the departments refused public records requests in May and July regarding their use of Stingrays, a suitcase-sized device tricks that cellphones in an area into electronically identifying themselves and transmitting data to police instead of the nearest phone company’s tower.
The departments cited rationales including the Homeland Security Act or trade-secret privilege to withhold records, the lawsuits said.
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Sgt. Lisa Bowman said she doesn’t believe the department has been served with the lawsuit and cannot comment on pending litigation. Anaheim police Lt. Eric Trapp, a department spokesman, said the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
ACLU attorney Peter Bibring said there needs to be public accountability and oversight.
“What protections are in place for privacy and civil liberties?” Bibring said. “That’s information the public should unquestionably have about how their police are using surveillance technologies.”