Councilman DiCiccio not pleased with Phoenix police videotaping tailgaters

Amy B Wang
AZ Central
Oct. 1, 2013

It was, as Sal DiCiccio tells it, the end of the world as we know it.

The Phoenix District 6 Councilman said he was enjoying the ASU-USC game Saturday in Tempe when, on the north side of Sun Devil Stadium, he encountered a white flatbed truck from the Phoenix Police Department. He and a group of friends noticed a camera mounted in the back videotaping tailgaters at the game.

“It looked like something from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells,” DiCiccio said Monday. “All I can tell you is it’s just creepy.”

Never one to mince words, DiCiccio took to his Facebook page the next morning.

“Terrorist at Tailgate parties? Creepy: PHX Police/Homeland Security at ASU game last night were spying and videotaping tailgaters. If you saw a white truck with a tall adjustable spire driving through the tailgate parties-then PHX PD/Homeland Security saw you and has a video tape of you eating your hot dog, No need to worry about the NSA or drones flying above your head, they are already here and now big brother is watching your tailgate party. I’m going to ask for a full explanation and sending a letter to Dr. Crow objecting to this over the top spying of ordinary citizens doing normal things.”

A few hours later, he posted again:

“My apology to ASU and Dr. Crow re the earlier post. They did not order the truck with the spy equipment at the tailgate parties. So, the question is, why was PHX PD driving the tailgate parties with the video camera rolling. I contacted city mgt and they are looking into it. Everyone wants to be safe, but having a video truck roam the tailgate parties taking video of normal people doing normal things is out of line. IRS, NSA now roaming video’s at tailgate parties. Stop this nonsense.”

DiCiccio later explained his posts.

“I was just frustrated, and I wasn’t happy about it,” DiCiccio said. “Why does Phoenix police send out a truck with a camera videotaping tailgaters? … It’s just one more level of intrusion by the government looking into our personal lives.”

The Phoenix Police Department had a different take: It wasn’t a sinister alien invasion, but rather a response to a request by ASU police to borrow resources from Phoenix police’s Threat Mitigation Unit for the big game. When third parties request assistance, the department lends its resources — including cameras, truck and manpower — under a mutual-aid agreement it has under the Urban Areas Security Initiative, a federal grant that funds the equipment.

“This was part of a multi-jurisdictional operation to monitor entry and exit points from the stadium area from a homeland security perspective,” Phoenix Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia said in a statement.

They didn’t give a reason for why they were at the ASU-USC game, except to note that the department has similarly participated in “large, high-profile events” like NBA and MLB All-Star games in Phoenix and the Pat Tillman Run, which took place days after the Boston Marathon bombings.

“For security reasons, Phoenix Police and other agencies do not advertise participation in specific operations nor do we comment on specific tactics or reasons for deployment,” Garcia said. “Our participation in these multi-jurisdictional operations is a best practice recognized by our federal partners and key to preparedness in the Phoenix metro area.”

DiCiccio remains unsatisfied with the response.

“It has me more concerned. The fact is there is always a concern that something can happen, anywhere, anytime,” he said. “But there is a reasonable expectation from citizens for a level of privacy from their government … The question is how far do you want government to do everything they’re doing?

DiCiccio said he has asked Phoenix police to come up with a written policy that outlines “when and where these type of video activities can occur.”

“Anybody can videotape anyone for any reason,” he said. “It’s a problem when your government is out there doing that.”