Arizona police department used federal Covid funds to buy high tech surveillance equipment

The city of Mesa Arizona is using $3.3 million in federal Covid funds to pay for CCTV cameras and “wall-to-wall” monitors to surveil people in public. Some of the funds will also go towards buying full body scanners at the jail.

From Phoenix New Times:

Currently, $3.3 million of the $52 million Mesa received in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) earlier this year is earmarked for the center. (The city will still have to foot the bill for staffing and remodeling, without the help of the relief money.) City leaders say they hope to have the system up and running by December.

“It’ll be very high tech,” deputy city manager Michael Kennington promised the city council at an August 26 meeting. Mesa’s mayor, John Giles, has since greenlit the proposal.

“Police departments have seen [the grant money] as a way to pay for all of the fancy technology and equipment they’ve always wanted, but never had a reason or the funding to get,” said Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that monitors law enforcement surveillance.

“All of a sudden, you have cops saying, ‘You know what we need to fight Covid? We need drones.'”

Photo by  Maksim Chernyshev  on  Scopio

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Mark Frauenfelder