San Francisco Cops Lean on Nightclubs to Become Arms of Security/Surveillance State

Interesting/horrifying report from San Francisco nightclub DNA Lounge:

Officer Chan, the permitting officer for SFPD, called to remind us that we're required to have video surveillance that records everything our customers do, and to give that footage to SFPD any time they ask, without a warrant or explanation. "Actually, that's not the case, I'm not required to do that," says Barry. "It's a part of the Good Neighbor Policy," says the cop. "No, actually, it's not. And it's also not a condition of our permits."

"Well! I guess I'll have to speak to the Entertainment Commission about that, then!"

Thirty minutes later, Barry got a call from this guy's boss, admitting that while we're not technically required to, we really, really should "consider" it. After some back and forth, he says, "Should I take from this conversation that you're not willing to consider this?" "We have considered it, which is why we fought to have that condition not put on our permits."

Someone from the Entertainment Commission said, "Yeah, it's really weird that you don't have that condition, because they're putting that on everybody's permits now. Nobody else has fought it."

Which isn't surprising, since apparently everyone who works for SFPD is going around telling everyone that it's required by law when that's not even remotely true. It's just another sneaky, backdoor regulation that ABC and SFPD have been foisting on everyone without any kind of judicial oversight, in flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Remember, they tried to get this written into the law back in 2010 and got their asses handed to them, so instead they've just been making it a condition of every new permit ever since. Because they think that they get to just make up laws, all on their own.

The more the state is in your business--the more we allow the state to be in our business--the more they will do this sort of backdoor deputizing to make private information collection a tool for the state (generally the only real reason to fear private information collection).

In the world of telecom, there are big important lawsuits on this same principle, and as I blogged last week, sometimes in court the good guys win, as in the this decision knocking down national security letters on First Amendment grounds. 

At least the cops didn't try to tell DNA Lounge it couldn't write about their illegitimate requests. Yet.

Reason on surveillance

[Hat tip: Tom Price]

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  • sarcasmic||

    Cops lying about the law? I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you!

    Actually, I'm not. Cops lie all the time. Force and fraud. It's what they do.

  • R C Dean||

    everyone who works for SFPD is going around telling everyone that it's required by law

    Whenever some government functionary tells me something is "required" (that I don't already know is actually required), I ask to see a copy of the law. Its amazing how often they can't produce it.

    That nightclub should advertise themselves a being free from video surveillance. Bound to be a competitive advantage.

  • sarcasmic||

    They don't threaten to throw you in jail for not cooperating?

  • Way Of The Crane||

    That nightclub should advertise themselves a being free from video surveillance. Bound to be a competitive advantage.

    Would you encourage banks to do the same thing? Convenience stores? Perhaps it would be better to just advertise: "Yes we have cameras, but we respect the 4th Amendment." Or better yet, how about on that just says, "Fuck the SFPD!"

  • Killazontherun||

    Unless I see the owner getting beaten, his windows smashed, and parking tickets on his sports car, I'd suspect a rat.

  • tarran||

    That nightclub should advertise themselves a being free from video surveillance. Bound to be a competitive advantage.

    You call yourself a lawyer and you give such shitty advice? :)

    The local U.S. attorney could easily spin that advertisement into justification for seizing the club under asset forfeiture laws for providing support for illegal narcotics trafficking.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Or liability lawsuits from patrons?

    "They intentionally did not provide the same level of security as other night clubs!"

  • R C Dean||

    "Yes, and you knew it when you walked in."

    If anything, if you aren't going to do video surveillance, advertising sets up the defense.

    The US Attorney will seize the club regardless of people are doing drug deals there.

  • Aresen||

    Actually, I am kind of surprised that they don't have surveillance cameras just to protect themselves from liability suits in general. (ie: The famous "I slipped and sprained by back on the spilled drink that they didn't clean up" scam.)

    Even if they do have surveillance cameras, the cops shouldn't be allowed to demand them without a warrant. Even then, the warrant should specify a specific time and place, no fishing expeditions.

  • R C Dean||

    Reading the article again, I'm not sure if he refused to have video surveillance, or just refused to cough it up on demand.

  • sarcasmic||

    The way I read it he just refused to allow the condition on the permit.

  • Jordan||

    More evidence of California's great classical liberal electorate that Shriek likes to tell us about.

  • Wind Rider||

    Politicians may be grandstanding idiots in public view advocating big government stupidity, weaselly bureaucrats they empower behind the scenes are the real aggravation.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Policies (and Police) like this ought to kill urban growth.

  • Moz||

    This is Jamie Zawinski's nightclub. He was one of Netscape's first developers and was a big part of Mozilla/Firefox. Very much a digital rights and open-source advocate guy, not surprised at all that he knows the law, knows his rights and is holding the cops and bureaucrats accountable.

  • Brandybuck||

    Gotta love a guy who fights crime with a cow and a trampoline.

  • Loki||

    Gee, isn't CA, and San Fransisco such a wonderful Progressive utopia? Why can't everwhere be as "enlightened" as they are? /sarc

  • Aresen||

    I think that cops are power-seeking jerks no matter what the local politics.

  • ||

    I am paraphrasing here but if more people would answer "Fuck you, thats why" with "No, Fuck You"....never mind. It will never happen.

    I get very disheartened looking at the comments on most other blogs....the majority of them are just the bleating of sheep.

  • croaker||

    Saying "fuck you" to a cop gets you multiple skull fractures and a $2 million settlement.

  • Aresen||

    Someone from the Entertainment Commission said, "Yeah, it's really weird that you don't have that condition, because they're putting that on everybody's permits now. Nobody else has fought it."

    Let me guess, the cops phoned the EC and said it would be a good idea.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "Actually, that's not the case, I'm not required to do that," says Barry.

    ON THE GROUND, MOTHERFUCKER! SHOW ME YOUR HANDS SHOW ME YOUR HANDS!

    Blamblamblam!

    Good shoot.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    It's just another sneaky, backdoor regulation that ABC and SFPD have been foisting on everyone without any kind of judicial oversight, in flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    Maybe some day, when the ACLU works through their backlog of high profile gendernormative bullying cases, they'll deign to take a look at piddly stuff like this.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Unlike our competitors, we do NOT film your bumps and grinds!"

  • Brendan||

    This can't be true, not in civil rights leader California and ultra-progressive San Francisco.

    This is the kind of stuff I was told only happens in redneck, Palin voting states like Texas and Mississippi.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    This is the kind of stuff I was told only happens in redneck, Palin voting states like Texas and Mississippi.

    If you read the first link the quoted bit, the hero of the story suggests that the pricks involved would be happier in the South or Midwest. He's apparently missed all of SF's utter bullshit until his ox was at risk.

  • Killazontherun||

    Holy fuck that is one seriously boiled frog.

  • Killazontherun||

    He probably even believes those videos the North Korean-California Confederacy government airs about all of us out here drinking snow coffee and shooting children with guns that control our minds.

  • Brandybuck||

    Because they think that they get to just make up laws, all on their own.


    DNA Lounge has been in SF long enough to know that this is the Progressive Way of doing things. Limits on the government is an reactionary Republican idea that has no place in enlightened San Francisco. You can blame it on the wrong people being in power, but that's YOUR fault for not voting for the people we told you to.

  • Aresen||

    Of course, they fail to mention that the people who are doing it ARE the people they told us to vote for.

  • Lincoln||

    No one would care at all were it not for the criminalization of the public at large by broad, ignorant policies like drug prohibition, asset forfeiture, NDAA, FISA and the Patriot Act. . .

  • Lincoln||

    This is America. What happens in any city is likely to be followed by others. By the time we hear about it it's usually already prolific. . . just something to keep in mind.

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