Trustees air concerns about Flock cameras, approve installation

By: Nick Powers | C&G Newspapers | Published April 20, 2024


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Clinton Township Board of Trustees, at its April 15 meeting, OK’d the reallocation of funds from vehicle purchases to the purchase of eight traffic cameras for the Police Department’s special investigations unit to use.

The cameras, manufactured by Flock Safety, would help law enforcement locate vehicles based on license plates or other identifying markers like bumper stickers. The cost of the cameras would be $34,000.

The police would also utilize CLEAR, a data collection database by Thomson Reuters, with license plate readers for $16,632. In a letter to the township ways and means committee, Sergeant Robert Nielsen stated that CLEAR would be an improvement over the current system Accurint in scope.

“By harnessing a broader spectrum of data sources, CLEAR enhances the depth and accuracy of information available to investigators and will provide more data and ensure its accuracy,” Nielsen said in the letter. “CLEAR is the superior choice, and sole source, which will offer Clinton Township investigators access to a wealth of information essential for their operations.”

Clinton Township Police Department Capt. Brandon Blake said that the cameras are only used to help an investigation move forward.

“These Flock cameras have been very useful in locating missing or endangered children,” Blake said at the meeting. “It’s also beneficial in our homicide investigations.”

Trustees Dan Kress, Tammy Patton and Mike Keys were concerned about the civil liberty issues that could come up from the cameras capturing data not related to investigations.

“One of the scariest things I saw with this technology was after Roe v. Wade was overturned,” Keys said. “Different governors talked about using this technology to monitor who’s leaving and entering the state.”

“I’m really not comfortable with Big Brother coming to Clinton Township,” Kress said. “I am comfortable with the fact that surrounding communities have it already.”

“I am worried about that third-party thing,” Patton said. “Because there are so many things out here that people can get their hands on, and they can ruin your life.”

Kress advocated for the department’s traffic division to be reinstated. Treasurer Paul Gieleghem said the staffing and resources aren’t available for that currently, so the cameras are the next best thing.

“How do we utilize law enforcement technology to be able to do a better job with the resources we do have that we can allocate,” Gieleghem said.

Blake said that the cameras are needed because neighboring communities already have them. Clinton Township would not be able to utilize these communities’ cameras. Blake said Sterling Heights cut off Clinton Township’s access a couple of months ago. He said all municipalities in Macomb County have this technology already, except the township.

“Part of this system is playing nice,” Blake said.

At the end of the meeting, Blake said that Flock does not sell to third parties.

Resident Sam Buschell questioned the civil liberty issues with the new tech, specifically the large amount of information CLEAR provides access to.

“I personally think this is a very bad idea,” Buschell said. “It’s one of those slippery slopes.”

The cameras were approved. Kress, Keys and Clerk Kim Meltzer voted no; Julie Matuzak, Patton, Supervisor Robert Cannon and Gieleghem voted yes.