Several area police departments are crying foul after being included in a media report that claims they are helping ICE track immigrants through a license plate reading device.
Eight law enforcement entities were listed by the American Civil Liberties Union as having relationships with ICE, including Fairfield, Westport, Stratford, Norwalk, Trumbull, and Southern Connecticut State University.
The license plate readers owned by the firm Vigilant Solutions Inc. makes the information obtained available to other departments, including officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Police chiefs in Norwalk, Westport, and Fairfield said they do not use the system to spy on drivers or residents, as alleged in the ACLU report. But they are continuing to use the system.
In Fairfield, Capt. Robert Kalamaras said that although all police agencies share and collaborate investigative information to protect the people of their respective jurisdictions and the security of our country.
"The Fairfield Police Department takes privacy rights very seriously and continually seeks to find a balance between ensuring people’s Constitutional rights, and the use of technology to solve crimes and maintain the security of our community," he added.
Norwalk Police Chief Tom Kulhawik said the story was misleading. He along with Mayor Harry Rilling said the intent of the database is not to assist ICE.
“A recent report by the ACLU implies the City of Norwalk and Norwalk Police Department have an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement – that is not true," they said. "We do not report anyone’s immigration status. 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.
“We want to be clear: Norwalk welcomes all people. We proudly stand with immigrants and residents of all backgrounds and beliefs. Our diversity is one of the greatest strengths of our community. It is the express policy of the Norwalk Police Department to refrain from cooperating or assisting with federal immigration actions."
Westport's Chief Foti Koskinas said in a statement the system does not provide officers immigration status, race, gender, sex, the name of the person driving, or owner information of the vehicle. He added that the system has proven to help fight crime.
“We always attempt to balance the safety of officers and citizens with privacy. Information sharing and communication amongst law enforcement agencies is critical to that safety,” said Koskinas.
Trumbull Police Chief Michael Lombardi said the system has helped while investigating a robbery and assault in a local park and a bank robbery.
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