HELENA – The ACLU of Montana filed a lawsuit against Cascade County for failing to respond to a request for information on the use of racial profiling and force policies and files on license plate readers which can be used to track a driver’s location.
According to a statement, the ACLU sent the first Freedom of Information Act request for the cell site simulators on March 24, 2016. They followed up on April 12, 2016, asking for the Cascade County Sheriff's Office policies on force and racial profiling to make the information available on the ACLU website for public use.
The office didn’t respond to either request, the lawsuit alleges.
Commonly called Sting-Ray devices, the cell site simulators mimic cellphone towers and force a phone to allow police to see its location as well as identifying information. Automatic license plate readers send information from a plate’s location and sends it to a regional sharing system where it’s stored for an unregulated amount of time. The ACLU said this information allows police to essentially track a person’s movements.
“The Montana Constitution contains a Right to Know provision, and Montana statutes have been adopted to require compliance with the Constitution. If you don’t comply, there is a penalty for noncompliance,” Jim Taylor, legal director for ACLU Montana, said in a statement. “We have a list of agencies that haven’t responded, and we are starting with Cascade County. Then we are going to move down the list.”
Taylor said the ACLU has tried to work with agencies that asked for additional time to meet the request, but he said they are unwilling to continue waiting for agencies that choose not to respond. He said the ACLU plans to file suit against the other agencies who haven’t respond to the same request.
Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards said he wasn't aware a lawsuit had been filed and would need to do some research before commenting.