Westport police respond to claims of helping ICE
WESTPORT — Police Chief Foti Koskinas responded to an American Civil Liberties Union report that claims police in Westport and other Connecticut law enforcement agencies have been assisting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in providing the locations of residents in a nationwide mass-surveillance program.
“We always attempt to balance the safety of officers and citizens with privacy. Information sharing and communication amongst law enforcement agencies is critical to that safety,” Koskinas said in a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday night.
However, the statement denied the department’s license-plate reader system collects data on a driver’s immigration status.
“Westport has License Plate Reader systems in operation today by both the Railroad Division and Patrol Division. Location data collected by the LPRs can be queried by over 500 law enforcement agencies,” the statement reads. “The LPR system in no way provides the officer information as to the immigration status, race, gender, sex, name of the person operating the vehicle, or the owner information of the vehicle, nor does it record any of this information. Vigilant Solutions, the vendor from whom we purchased the system and with whom we have a contract, manages and stores the minimal data collected.”
“Throughout the country these systems and databases have proven themselves to be invaluable tools to law enforcement. The Westport Police Department is confident Vigilant Solutions meets strict FBI-CJIS compliance standards to ensure the security of information that is shared between its partner agencies.”
A report released Wednesday by the ACLU’s Northern California office charges that, in all, eight law-enforcement agencies — Fairfield, Westport, Stratford, Trumbull, Norwalk, Enfield, Wethersfield and Southern Connecticut State University — have been providing the information in possible violation of the state’s 2013 TRUST law.
In all, 80 law enforcement entities across the country have given ICE assistance, including location information through a wide-ranging license-plate database tracking daily movements of potential ICE targets, the ACLU said.
The ACLU’s report indicates 9,000 ICE agents have access to a license plate-reader database run by Vigilant Solutions.