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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) and ACLU affiliates in 22 other states today simultaneously filed public records requests to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas.

“North Carolinians deserve to know how much their local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing,” said Chris Brook, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director. “Across the country, local law enforcement agencies are increasingly using military equipment to conduct traditional law enforcement activities. We need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections.”

The ACLU-NCLF filed public record requests with 64 of the state’s largest local law enforcement agencies (listed below), seeking information on the use of:

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The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) joined 37 other state ACLU affiliates today in sending requests to local police departments and state agencies that demand information on how they use automatic license plate readers (ALPR) to track and record Americans’ movements. The request was sent to 63 law enforcement agencies throughout North Carolina, including the counties of Alamance, Brunswick, Buncombe, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, New Hanover, Orange, Pitt and Wake, as well as the cities of Asheville, Burlington, Cary, Chapel Hill, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, High Point, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.

In addition, the national ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed federal Freedom of Information Act requests with the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Transportation to learn how the federal government funds ALPR expansion nationwide and uses the technology itself.

ALPRs are cameras mounted on patrol cars or on stationary objects along roads – such as telephone poles or the underside of bridges – that snap a photograph of every license plate that enters their fields of view. Typically, each photo is time, date, and GPS-stamped, stored, and sent to a database, which provides an alert to a patrol officer whenever a match or “hit” appears.

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A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that 74% of North Carolina voters would support a law to protect privacy rights by requiring state and local law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant or court order before tracking an individual’s cell phone.

The survey, which polled 810 North Carolina voters from June 7-10, comes after the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) released public records from more than 40 North Carolina law enforcement agencies as part of an ongoing investigation into state and local policies, practices, and procedures for tracking cell phone records. That investigation found that many law enforcement agencies across the state routinely track individual’s cell phone locations and other personal information without obtaining a warrant or court order. There is currently no statewide law or policy requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant for such actions.

“These results show that an overwhelmingly majority of North Carolina voters value privacy rights and believe law enforcement across the state should follow a uniform policy when seeking to obtain personal cell phone information,” said Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the ACLU-NC. “The information transmitted through our cell phones – from where we travel to who we communicate with – is extremely sensitive and personal, and North Carolina voters clearly want to ensure that police obtain and retain such data only when a judge agrees that they have probable cause to do so.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union this weekend released the results of public records requests filed last August to hundreds of local police departments across the country, asking them about their policies, practices, and procedures for tracking cell phone records.

More than 40 of the police departments that responded are from North Carolina, including the counties of Alamance, Buncombe, Guilford, and New Hanover, and the cities of Asheville, Burlington, Chapel Hill, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Fayetteville, Greenville, High Point, Raleigh, and Wilmington.

As The New York Times reported on Sunday, the records show that the practice of tracking cell phones “has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight.”

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