OPD and other police agencies use CopLink to share data on arrests, incident reports, calls for service, gun casings found at crime scenes, Shot spotter, etc
There is a disagreement between Oakland’s Privacy Advisory Commission (PAC) and the Oakland Administration on the use of a multi-agency crime database. The decision on the use of the CopLink database will be made at the December 1 City Council meeting and MOBN! will be supporting the Administration. MOBN! does not lightly discard the advice of the PAC. The following explains why we do so in this case.
PAC’s Concerns About ICE Access
The multi-agency database is CopLink, operated by the company Forensic Logic. Data on arrests, incident reports, calls for service, gun casings found at crime scenes, Shotspotter (a gunshot location detection system), etc is entered into the CopLink database by law enforcement across the country, and then that database can be queried based on the crime evidence from any one agency (e.g. OPD). Querying this database enables police officers to know if there is a connection to a crime in another place. The PAC is concerned that ICE could query the data to determine where a wanted ICE subject is located, which could happen if that subject had been arrested and if ICE had access to the database. But ICE is specifically forbidden access to the CopLink database. The ATF has access to the database, but again it is restricted from sharing that data with ICE. The CopLink database does not contain data from OPD automatic license plate readers, nor from facial recognition, nor from body worn cameras. It is strictly a database of crime data.
The PAC is requesting that Oakland’s use of CopLink be confined to Alameda County, because they believe that outside of that closely held jurisdiction some other law enforcement agency might share the data with ICE; the PAC is saying it’s ok for OPD to see broader data, but for only this limited area to see OPD data. The problem with this is first, if you don’t trust other jurisdictions you should not trust Alameda County either, and second, it renders CopLink useless for other jurisdictions solving multi-jurisdiction crimes. There are numerous examples of people involved in crimes in Las Vegas, Stockton, Richmond who are also involved in crimes in Oakland. It is to our benefit for Richmond, Stockton ,Las Vegas to be able to connect up crimes that happen in Oakland so the perpetrators can be stopped.
Making arrest data easily available to a wide set of law enforcement agencies can certainly raise concerns if it is not done in a way that minimizes the potential for abuse. However, Forensic Logic has put into place robust security to make sure that unauthorized access is not allowed, and ICE is not allowed. MOBN! maintains that the benefit of helping to solve crimes, crimes which in Oakland often are committed by people from other regions, that helping to solve those crimes is worth the need to trust that this security holds.