AUSTIN (KXAN) — City leaders will discuss the reinstatement of Austin Police Department’s license plate reader (LPR) program during a public safety committee meeting next week before bringing the item back for council approval.

In an APD memo Monday, Chief Joseph Chacon said the LPRs had previously been used in Austin to help with AMBER and Silver Alerts, missing person reports, abduction cases and locating vehicles connected to other crimes.

In the memo, Chacon said the department has worked with the city manager’s office and the Office of Police Oversight to “ensure that the LPR program meets all security requirements and expectations to manage and implement an effective community support and protection tool.”

During community input meetings in February, the memo noted community members focused on picking LPR locations that “avoid disparate outcomes with any segment of our community,” emphasizing a need for fair and equitable placement.

Focuses of the LPR program proposal include:

  • No person will be the subject of police action due to “actual or perceived race, color, religion, creed, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ethnicity, disability, veteran status, marital status, partnership status, political affiliation or beliefs, and, to the extent permitted by law, alienage or citizenship status”
  • Officers won’t use LPRs to investigate a person exercising their First Amendment rights “unless there is a criminal nexus”
  • An LPR alert alone “does not create reasonable suspicion to justify a traffic stop or the detention of an individual”
  • LPR data collected by APD will not be used “for the purpose of collecting traffic fines, warrant roundups, or any other similar purpose of generating revenue or collecting money owed by the public”
  • APD will use “best practice and data security”

Per the memo, APD will report findings and data collected through the program to council after three months in effect. Those same reports will also be presented to the Austin Public Safety Commission and council’s Public Safety Committee.

Once enacted, the City Auditor’s Office will also launch its own review and audit of the program to review the data collected and program operations.

Right now, APD is eyeing a contract with Flock Safety Automatic License Plate Readers for the pilot system’s operations.

Originally, the pilot was set to conclude at the end of fiscal year 2022-23 on Sept. 30. However, Chacon noted in his memo that the program will extend into FY24.

“Due to the complexities of gathering feedback and securing a contract, the pilot implementation will take time and will need to extend into the next fiscal year,” the memo read. “APD is prepared to implement and manage the LPR program for the initial year-long pilot period with optional one-year extensions for up to five years. The one-year pilot model is necessary due to procurement related burdens and the need for continuity of programming.”

Council was originally set to consider the item at this Thursday’s meeting. However, council opted to instead discuss the item in its Public Safety Committee next week.

Following discussion and public feedback opportunities at that committee meeting, it will come back at the following council meeting for approval consideration.