Down to FLOCK–these Council candidates support Lexington’s invasive FLOCK license plate readers

Lexington,Ky–To say Lexington’s new FLOCK license plate reader program has been a hot topic lately would be an understatement. The Lexington Police Department and Mayor Linda Gorton have been on a PR blitz to sell them to the public.

However, LPD will not release the locations of the cameras, and an audit of the program an LPD Commander recently referenced on WKYT turned out to not actually, you know, exist. (WKYT never corrected that story despite being given hard evidence that the police statements were false.)

Despite the local media’s collusion with LPD to push the false police narrative, many in the community still have deep concerns about the program. According to Lexington Police Accountability:

LPD was asked about the locations of the cameras. Though they will be placed in public areas, LPD refused to share their locations, stating that releasing this information could alert people who are allegedly engaged in criminal activity, or the cameras could be vandalized. However, in addition to LPD Accountability, the NAACP, ACLU, and Human Rights Commission have expressed concern about the locations of the cameras potentially targeting over-policed, marginalized neighborhoods.

The Herald-Leader asked all the Urban County Council candidates a simple yes or no question: Do you support the use of Flock cameras to investigate crimes? Here’s how they answered.

District 1:

❌ Rahsaan Berry supports the use FLOCK cameras

Yes, because the Flock camera is a good resource tool to help officers solve different crimes. For example, the use of the camera helps to retrieve stolen vehicles and abduction of a child.

❓ Tayna Fogle did not answer the question

Crime-prevention efforts must address deficiencies in affordable housing, jobs and wages, healthcare and mental health services. We must reimagine community policing with transparent goals to hold police accountable, develop neighborhood-based safety plans to reduce unnecessary 911 calls and fund a 911 Diversion Plan as recommended by the Mayor’s Racial Justice and Equality Commission. In addition, LFUCG should facilitate the development of a Lexington-specific Group Violence Intervention initiative by diverse community leaders in collaboration with social-service providers, non-profit organizations and law enforcement. Such reforms are especially relevant to the 1st District where over-policing remains a problem. Finally, we should invest more in existing mentoring programs by paying permanent mentors to build long-term relationships with youth and setting measurable goals.

District 2

✅ Shayla Lynch opposes the use of FLOCK cameras

I currently do not support the use of Flock cameras. I am strongly concerned about communities of color being unfairly targeted and surveilled unnecessarily. Clear regulations regarding use and placement must be fleshed out before considering if these are a good use of the city’s resources.

❌ Josh McCurn Supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I support the use of Flock cameras and have discussed these at length with my neighborhood associations and neighbors. The use of Flock cameras are to only read license plates and do not record any vision of who is driving the vehicle. If a vehicle is reported stolen, the license plate read triggers in the system alerting a vehicle has been spotted, not a specific person.

District 3

❌ Hannah LeGris supports the use of FLOCK cameras

Along with the majority of Council, I voted in favor of the one-year Flock camera pilot program. With the final installation of cameras over recent weeks, we are starting to see the impact that the program is having. While the initial arrest statistics from the Lexington Police Department are favorable, I have concerns about privacy and equitable law enforcement practices across our community. Before making any additional decisions about funding the Flock system long-term, I want to review the program data more closely and solicit more public comment. I believe we have an obligation to continue educating and engaging with our community about the function and purpose of Flock cameras as we assess the utility of this program in our city.

❌ Kate Savage supports the use of FLOCK cameras

My understanding is that the use of Flock cameras to investigate crime is still a pilot program. It’s too soon to know their merits in helping to solve crimes. I am interested in seeing the data. However, what has been made available to date does show promise — missing people found, stolen cars recovered and multiple leads/arrests of people wanted in connection with criminal activity. I support providing any state-of-the-art technology that helps our police force keep our community safer and makes their job easier and less dangerous. In the world of today’s criminals, it is ridiculous to expect a police officer to keep us safe, put their life on the line and then send them out with a rosary and a pea shooter. [Times note: a rosary and a pea shooter? wtf?]

District 4

❓ J. “Brack” Marquette did not answer the question

Flock cameras are one tool that may prove to help our community reduce crime. I consider their current installation to be a trial run and will be looking for the data which demonstrates whether or not they should be continued. As noted above in my personal experience, crime and violence touches more and more of us. Our citizens are wary and thousands of residents have installed their own cameras at home and at businesses. Will these surveillance devices help lower crime? The proof awaits and I trust the Council will examine thoroughly the use of the Flock cameras and whether results merit their continuance.

❓ Brenda Monarrez did not answer the question

This year our Police force has had over 120 vacancies. When our total police force is approximately 640 officers, this is a significant number and it impacts the ability for officers to be effective and efficient. Currently officers are mostly reactive to crimes and unable to have a significant presence to help prevent crimes. Partnerships are needed with organizations to intervene and help, for example, with domestic violence and juveniles because each of those demographics contribute over 30% (over 60% combined) toward the total number of homicides that have Lexington on the verge of breaking the record for all-time number of homicides. The number of vacancies also affects solving crimes. Because of this, technologies such as Flock cameras can be instrumental. I realize being labeled ‘pro-police’ can be detrimental to my campaign because I have been awarded the endorsement from our Public Safety officers (Police and Fire). However, it does not mean misconduct will not be addressed. Accountability and consequences are needed, just as we wish for those to exist for individuals who are committing crimes. Decreasing crime is not possible without fully staffing, funding and supporting our Public Safety officers and providing them with the tools they need. I am proudly endorsed because I have been identified as the candidate who will listen and be responsive to finding solutions to decrease crime. Because I genuinely care about the issues at hand and have demonstrated being adept at finding solutions.

District 5

❓ Greg Ladd did not answer the question

Lexington is the noun, and community is the feeling. People in our community do not feel safe. With record high violent crime, truly all options should be on the table. Substantively, I would adopt nearly all of the key points of the police Guardian task force study issued by the White House in 2015. But, ultimately, it starts with leadership that provides a positive message, and doesn’t inflame sensitivities for political purposes. This is the reason the Lexington Police Department is 80-100 members short. My stance on crime prevention is why I have been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. Further, as a small business owner, if you want to attract and retain staff you need to pay them the going wage. We have failed as a city in this regard as well. Our first responders are drastically underpaid, relatively speaking.

❌ Liz Sheehan supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I support the current one-year pilot program the Council agreed to in order to have a data-informed conversation about the benefits and drawbacks of these license-plate readers as a tool for our police department to investigate crimes. The first of the 25 cameras were installed approximately six months ago with the full deployment being completed only recently. The preliminary reports from LPD are promising and that data are presented on the LPD website: As a trained researcher, I need to see comprehensive data before I’m comfortable dedicating additional tax dollars to this program; for example, has the percentage of crimes solved gone up relative to the past? In addition to needing more data, the City must do a better job of educating the public about the scope, limitations and safeguards in place. These cameras only take still photographs of license plates flagged as being connected to a criminal investigation and are only placed in public right-of-ways. I also have concerns about the utilization of historic crime data which could lead to the over-surveillance of minority and poor communities. I will need these concerns adequately addressed once we are ready to make future funding decisions.

District 6

❌ Denise Gray supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I was skeptical of the city’s use of Flock cameras at the beginning of the pilot program. However, I am no longer skeptical since data has been released regarding its effectiveness. The data shows the program thus far has been effective in solving crimes, serving warrants, locating stolen vehicles and, most importantly, locating individuals reported as missing.

❌ Charlie Rowland supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I support the use of Flock cameras to assist in the investigation of crimes. The cameras have already demonstrated their effectiveness in the number of missing persons and stolen vehicle cases they have helped solve. However, to the extent they remain in use, we need to be more transparent in how they are used, so that Lexingtonians’ privacy concerns are adequately addressed.

District 7

❌ Joshua Hale supports the use of FLOCK cameras

As for Flock cameras, although a great tool, there would have to be policy in place for using these devices for investigating certain crime

❌ Preston Worley supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I support the use of Flock cameras. Flock cameras are not a tool to monitor people and are not used as such. Flock cameras are just one of the many tools our police use to investigate and solve crimes. While still in the early stages of implementation, initial reports show the Flock cameras to have been useful tools.

District 8

❌ Fred Brown supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I support the use of Flock cameras as a deterrent to crime. This is not an invasion of privacy, period. The cameras have helped police to recover stolen property, missing people and aided criminal investigations. I support giving the police the tools to do their job in the most efficient manner.

❓ Kenya Williams isn’t sure

I am unsure if I am in full support of Flock cameras. I believe that should be left up to the right of privacy to the individual home owner.

District 9

❌ Whitney Elliott Baxter supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I put the item of Flock cameras into the Planning and Public Safety Committee because I believe we can utilize technology as a valuable tool to assist our officers. The Flock cameras have helped us locate stolen vehicles, missing persons and get guns and drugs off the streets. I am very impressed with the success we have had thus far and look forward to the continued use of advanced technology going forward.

❌ James J. Lombardi supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I do support the implementation and use of Flock cameras to both investigate and deter crime. I support this use of technology for the following reasons. The Flock camera system is a tool. Any tool that will enhance the ability to investigate and deter crime should be utilized. The use of these cameras extends beyond normal traffic violations. Instead, police will have access to go back and review recorded footage in order to help solve crimes, much like officers can link to surveillance cameras of local shops and stores. The long term benefit from the Flock camera program is simply adding efficiency and effectiveness to the Police department’s ability to investigate crime. Furthermore, I support the use of any technology that will lesson the strain and work load of an already short-handed Division of Government.

District 10

❌ Ross Mann supports the use of FLOCK cameras

If the flock cameras are used only for still frame photographs to help solve crimes, and not for surveillance, then I support their use in the current environment.

❌ Dave Sevigny supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I attended Citizens Police Academy this summer and I understand how the cameras are utilized and the oversight that is in place to make sure they are not being misused. A shortage in officers creates its own unique set of issues and in business, whenever I was low on staff and had to increase efficiency, I generally turned to automation. I think Flock cameras provide some basic tools to help automate some pretty manual tasks that are being done by our police force, so that our officers can spend time working on things that take more skills and physical presence.

District 11

❌ Rock Daniels supports the use of FLOCK cameras

Emergency 911 had five calls in 2019 with over a two-minute wait time. So far this year there have been over 1,000. Criminals are starting to realize this and know that there is going to be longer than normal response times. Flock cameras are solving crimes so I support that.

💃🏻 Jennifer Reynolds danced around the question

In terms of the Flock cameras, I stand somewhere in the middle. I have many constituents who like them and want more but have others who are very bothered by them and do not want to see the program grow. Positively, I’ve seen how they have been helpful at times at solving crimes which is something many constituents ask for frequently.

❌ Brittanie C. Price supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I would have a Volunteer Police Department that would be working alongside with the paid Law Enforcement Officers that could reduce man hours and allow the city to spend less on Police Protection like Volunteer Fire Fighters and have the same training. All that would be paid for is their training, equipment, meals and uniforms. Then if spots open up they can be paid as Law Enforcement Officers as different pay grades open up. I think we need to focus on being a community and that each district needs to be more sustaining and I would have well trained organized neighborhood watches to help assist the different Law Enforcement Agencies and the safety of the community means every one in our districts. The only way to reduce crime for Law Enforcement Officers is to get to know the community and talk with people more and help troubled kids and young adults when it is safe in plain clothes. The police can use neighborhoods with gangs to keep peace on the right side of the law. I accept Flock Cameras to investigate crime, but I do not agree with no-knock warrants.

District 12

❌ Raymond Alexander supports the use of FLOCK cameras

Yes, I support the use of Flock cameras because it’s another tool to solve criminal investigations unobtrusively.

❌ Kathy Plomin supports the use of FLOCK cameras

I do support the use of Flock cameras to investigate crimes. Already over 75 cars, whether stolen or involved in some type of crime, have been apprehended. The $275,000 invested in the purchase of these cameras is a small fraction of our public safety budget. Our police need tools like these cameras to assist in their efforts to curtail crime in our city.