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City council vote on plate-reading cameras delayed after no quorum at Public Safety and Community Relations Board meeting Friday

An already-rescheduled meeting of Bloomington's Public Safety and Community Relations Board (PSCRB) has been postponed again after the group didn't have enough members present for a quorum.

Members of the PSCRB were slated to meet Friday afternoon after severe weather led to cancellation of the group's Feb. 3 meeting.

Among the agenda items was a review of a proposal from the Bloomington Police Department to purchase 10 cameras from Atlanta-based security company, Flock Safety. Publicized via a city council agenda on Jan. 10, the proposal has drawn criticism from some for a lack of public input surrounding the $59,000-purchase of cameras that can read vehicle license plates.

At the most recent Bloomington Technology Commission meeting on Jan. 25, BPD Crime and Intelligence Unit supervisor Jack McQueen said the agency plans to limit the use of the cameras to higher-profile crimes and noted the cameras could save officer manpower — and money — by reducing a need for officers to manually find and collect video footage from other cameras.

City council members, following the criticism, requested the PSCRB review the proposal it before it goes for a vote. Previously, city manager Tim Gleason described allowing the PSCRB prior review as a "courtesy," adding it's "definitely not a requirement."

The council would likely have voted on the proposal at its Feb. 14 meeting. But after the PSCRB didn't have a quorum Friday afternoon, Gleason said it would be pulled from the council agenda until the board has a chance to meet.

Absent from Friday's meeting were board members William Bennett, Surena Fish, Arthur Taylor and Brigette Black, according to city records. Reached by WGLT, Black said unexpected medical issues delayed her attendance and the meeting was over before she could arrive. Fish said she was out of state at the time and had previously notified the board chair that the rescheduled date didn't work for her.

While no business was conducted, PSCRB members who were present Friday heard public comments — all of which centered on plate-reading cameras.

Among those was Ravi Duvvuri, a member of the Bloomington Technology Commission.

Duvvuri noted, as a part of that group, he'd sat through McQueen's Jan. 25 presentation.

"But following that meeting, there was no real opportunity for any of us to share back with city council, or the community at large, what our thoughts were about the presentation," he said. "It seems strange to us that any subdivision or department of a large organization would be empowered to create its own governance, be responsible for its own oversight and not have any apparent review from outside auditing."

"The current policy as presented does not meet the standards that would satisfy those of us on the tech commission who questioned it," Duvvuri continued. "I think transparency and accountability would go a long way in building trust in both ways: between the people of Bloomington and the police department."

Other public speakers included longtime Bloomington residents Georgene Chissell, Julie Prandi and Irv Epstein, all of whom urged city officials to ensure proper policies regarding data storage and camera use are implemented before finalizing a contract with the security company.

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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