Our letter opposing SB-424 on warrantless covert surveillance

April 13, 2015

Senator Richard Pan
State Capitol Building, Room 4070
Sacramento, CA  95814
fax: 916-651-4906

Re: SB 424 (Pan) as introduced February 25, 2015
Position: Oppose

Dear Senator Pan,

The Council of UC Faculty Associations (CUCFA) strongly opposes SB 424 as introduced. This bill is essentially the same as AB 992 (as introduced), which was rejected by the Senate Public Safety Committee in 2005. The reasons for rejecting SB 424 today parallel those applied to AB 992 in 2005. Since 2005 we have been repeatedly reminded of the importance of Fourth Amendment protections. This awareness amplifies the concerns expressed in 2005.

Section 633 of the Penal Code contains the list of law enforcement officers exempt from the prohibition on covert monitoring and recording of private conversations. SB 424 would add UC, CSU, and other university and college police to the list. Section 633 states that a police officer can use these powers “acting within the scope of his or her authority.” This is excessively vague and broad. It does not require that a crime, much less a serious crime, need be involved. Further it does not restrict use of the power to circumstances where an emergency might make it difficult to obtain a warrant in a timely way. Section 633 extends the exemption from the listed police to “any person acting pursuant to the direction of one of these law enforcement officers.” Most seriously, the powers given to police are not balanced by a requirement for any kind review such as obtaining a warrant. The net effect of this is to give the listed police broad, unchecked power to monitor and record conversations.

The Council of UC Faculty Associations is firmly opposed to the extension of this authority for warrantless covert surveillance to colleges and universities in California.

Joe Kiskis
Acting President, Council of UC Faculty Associations
Professor of Physics Emeritus, UC Davis

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