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Police Oversight Commission Recommends Changes to Police Department’s Draft Cellular Site Simulator Policy

Published on Friday, December 8, 2023 | 5:58 am

During its Thursday meeting, Pasadena’s Community Police Oversight Commission recommended changes to the Pasadena Police Department’s draft Cellular Site Simulator policy, a technology that emulates a cellphone tower to help police locate cellular devices.

The amendments, proposed by the Commission’s Technology Ad Hoc Committee, suggest using the Vallejo Police Department’s policy as a framework. The Vallejo Police Department’s policy includes the Independent Police Auditor and Police Oversight Commission in the mechanisms of accountability and transparency. 

Also among the recommendations of the Ad Hoc committee is the inclusion of a statement in the policy saying Pasadena will not add software or otherwise modify the equipment in any way to enable cellular site simulator technology to capture or receive content like text messages, voicemails and others. 

The Police Department said the purchase of a Cellular Site Simulator would help save lives, solve cases of abduction and help save those attempting suicide. Earlier the Pasadena Police Department earlier clarified the device does not read text messages or emails.

Last Nov., the City Council asked the Oversight Commission to review and make recommendations on the Police Department Cellular Site Simulator policy. At its meeting on Nov. 2,  the Commission asked its Technology Ad Hoc Committee to create a recommendation for the full Commission’s consideration.

As per Pasadena Police Department’s Cellular Site Simulator policy, the device can only be used if there is a search warrant. 

It can also be used in exigent circumstances or instances where officers do not have time to secure a search warrant because of the potential for a loss of life or if grave bodily injury exists.  However, even in exigency, a search warrant needs to be submitted to the court within 72 hours.

For exigent circumstances, the committee adds a language to clarify that the device should only be used with a concurrent application for a search warrant, not just receiving one within 72 hours. 

The approved ad hoc committee recommendation also requires quarterly review of logs by IPA/Pasadena Police Department representative and any other review as needed, and the creation of deployment logs that are made public and posted online.

Additionally, it requires an annual report to the CPOC.

All members of the Community Police Oversight Commission voted in favor of the motion to approve the proposed amendments made by its Ad Hoc committee, except for Commissioner Raúl Ibáñez, who abstained from the voting.

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