Detroit’s Surveillance State

Detroit is struggling with Facial Recognition and enhanced surveillance at a time when neither the State or Federal government have moved forward on legislation that would limit law enforcement’s use based on Constitutional laws regarding privacy.

The city continues to pour more money into advancing surveillance and has only recently gone to the effort of codifying protocols for use, definitions of misuse and policies regarding these.

Recently an additional $200,000 was requested by the Detroit Police Department’s intelligence unit for expansion of equipment to Detroit City Council. This is on top of $4 million which was allocated for establishing 2 remote collection stations for the system on the Northeast and Northwest areas of the city. The funds were drawn from a pool which would be tapped for improving transit, parks, recreation, and community engagement programs. Have we lost sight of how self-worth matters to the residents? Surveillance is definitely aligned with current gentrification of the city, making the city “more desirable” for newcomers.

Organizations In Detroit

News Coverage

Research Papers

Rand Corporation – Key Findings

Using Video Analytics and Sensor Fusion in Law Enforcement
Building a Research Agenda That Includes Business Cases, Privacy and Civil Rights Protections, and Needs for Innovation

Video analytics and sensor fusion are extremely promising technologies for improving public safety

  • There are 22 high-priority needs for innovation to enhance the effectiveness and security of video analytics and sensor fusion (VA/SF) for law enforcement.
  • VA/SF could be of great benefit in detecting crimes in progress and investigating crimes and incidents.
  • VA/SF could support law enforcement by monitoring officer performance and protecting officers’ health and safety.
  • The risks of VA/SF technologies are significant, with security, privacy, and civil rights protections needed if these technologies are not to be misused or abused.
  • While VA/SF technologies are indeed promising for supporting public safety, they have a long way to go before reaching their full potential.


  • Use of VA/SF technologies must be passive, not active.
  • Implementing VA/SF technologies should start with improving capabilities to reliably detect baseline entities, activities, and events, and then adopt more sophisticated capabilities over time.
  • Purposes for which these tools may and may not be used must be clearly defined by their implementing communities consistent with applicable law and policy.
  • Implementation should start with basic model policy development and education, and over time include studying the use of technology to expedite policy and legal compliance.

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