HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — A Hampton City councilman says he had no idea police were using private phones to collect data, until 10 On Your Side reported the story. Now he has a lot of questions.
Councilman Donnie Tuck was re-elected in May to a second term on city council. He told WAVY.com he other council members were not informed of the police telephone data sharing agreement between the Hampton Police Division and four other cities in Hampton Roads.
“We did not vote on it because it was not presented to council for a vote, but it happened in other areas where they presented it to the council as a consent item,” he said. “At least [the other councils] had an opportunity to look at it, to read it, and to know what they were voting on.”
The agreement was signed off administratively, according to a city spokesperson, because the $10,000 yearly cost does not involve taxpayer money. Police say it is paid for with funds recovered from drug investigations. Police examine phone logs and cell phones they seize from criminals.
“It’s only done after there’s a second party review, which is through a court order or the magistrate when we get the search warrant or the court order,” said Sgt. Jason Price of the Hampton Police Division.
Price also talked about the information that is gathered.
“We put it into a computer and it lets us compare those telephone records to other criminals telephone records, and it lets us know if they are working together,” he said.
Councilman Tuck makes this point: “when you go back and you look at what’s happening on the national level, with the idea that police are collecting all these records on private citizens, with the intent initially on foreign intelligence, people have concerns about that.”
But police continue to defend the program. In addition to Hampton, participants include Newport News, Chesapeake, Norfolk and Suffolk.