Chief — Trumbull is not part of a mass surveillance program
Police Chief Michael Lombardo is disputing a report from the American Civil Liberties Union that said Trumbull is one of eight law enforcement departments in Connecticut that helps Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials track targets. The report was the subject of an article published by Hearst CT Media Thursday.
“We are not part of some mass surveillance program for illegal immigrants,” Lombardo said Friday morning. “That’s not how the system works.”
A report released Wednesday by the ACLU’s Northern California office charges that in all, eight Connecticut law-enforcement agencies, including Trumbull, have been providing the information in possible violation of the state’s 2013 TRUST law.
In all, 80 law enforcement entities across the country have given ICE assistance, including location information through a wide-ranging license-plate database tracking daily movements of potential ICE targets, the ACLU said.
Lombardo, who also issued a written statement Thursday. told the Trumbull Times that the department has one such license plate reader, which feeds into a database that hundreds of law enforcement agencies can access. The reader, which is mounted to a police car, scans the license plates of passing cars and alerts the officer in the event that a car has been reported stolen or if the owner has warrants for their arrest, Lombardo said. The system has proven useful in solving a number of crimes in town, mostly involving stolen cars, but also an assault and a bank robbery.
Lombardo called the plate reader a valuable tool for maintaining community safety, and said the information it collected was shared with other law enforcement agencies for official use only.
“It doesn’t give us data like names or addresses, or gender, or immigration status,” Lombardo said.
But if Trumbull police are not collecting that kind of information during their traffic patrols, could ICE still be using the license plate data for its own purposes? Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling and Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik, in a joint statement Wednesday night, denied that there is an agreement with ICE. But the two seemingly acknowledged the possibility that ICE was using information collected by Norwalk officers.
“We do not report anyone’s immigration status,” Rilling and Kulhawik said. “On its face, it appears data from a cloud-based law enforcement database used by NPD was used by ICE to obtain information on specific individuals. That is not the intent of this database, as it is meant to assist law enforcement with criminal investigations.”