A new online database started today by the New York Civil Liberties Union says the Rochester Police Department is one of the state's biggest law enforcement users of Stingray technology, which allows police to eavesdrop on cell phone users by making the phone think their receiver is the cell phone tower.
The NYCLU site, Behind the Badge, says its purpose is transparency: making available the internal rules, training materials and policies that guide police interactions with the public, department-by-department for anyone to see. It says the RPD listened in on cell phones 13 times in recent years, without getting court approval in nine of those cases. It also says Rochester police are allowed to make stops based on pretexts.
The RPD says in response that it doesn't require a court order to use the Stingray device, but it did get them on three of the 13 occasions. It says it had federal government authorization to use the device in three cases, and had a state search warrant authorizing six more. It says one use was to quickly track down a despondent person who was threatening suicide.