american civil liberties Union: launching legislative campaign for local control over police surveillance decisions

Balestra Media partnered with the ACLU on the launch of Community Control Over Police Surveillance, resulting in coverage of the campaign by the Associated Press and Reuters tied to the press call announcing the effort. After the press call, 40 original stories were published on the campaign, including interviews on 3 podcasts, 3 national radio shows and 3 local radio shows. The multi-state legislative initiative to introduce needed transparency into the decision-making process around local deployment of spying technologies focused on how the issue disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income areas.

The morning of the launch, the Associated Press ran a story on CCOPS quoting ACLU executive director Anthony Romero saying, "This is the type of reform that can take place and ought to take place in any community across the country," in a story that also included the NAACP--another partner in the effort. The piece was reprinted by over 100 outlets. Reuters also published a piece that included the ACLU and Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice tying the campaign to the need to stop high-tech racial profiling.


The Guardian also published a comprehensive piece the morning of the launch that identified the goals of the effort, quoted a key partner and emphasized the racial justice angle of the CCOPS campaign. The ACLU’s Chad Marlow was quoted saying, “It became very clear that as a matter of a policing justice issue, and a racial justice issue, not just in the fact of the surveillance itself but in the way that it was deployed against low-income and minority communities in particular.”

By connecting the launch of the campaign to the recent news that police in Baltimore operated an aerial surveillance program for months without the knowledge of public or top city officials, CCOPS was able to maximize coverage by local outlets like the Baltimore Sun and CBS 13. Other outlets covering local efforts to introduce related legislation in nearly a dozen towns across the country include ABC 3 in Pensacola, the Pensacola News Journal, WDAM 7 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi Today, News 7 in Miami, The Stranger in Seattle and the Post and Courier in Charleston.

Balestra’s aggressive push for radio coverage resulted in several interviews in outlets serving communities of color, including Colorlines, the Bev Smith Show, WURD and WVON. Radio segments devoted to the campaign launch heavily promote the campaign and hosts called on their listeners to look up the website, get informed and be involved. On WURD, the only African-American-owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania, the host Stephanie Reneee closed the interview with ACLU’s Chad Marlow by telling listeners, “If you hearing that, that drone surveillance was happening here as a pilot in our area, and you didn’t know anything about it, and now it’s already expanded to Baltimore, based on what they learned here, then you need to know more about this effort.”

To accompany the launch, Balestra created key online collateral like an easy to understand top 10 list about each surveillance technology to generate awareness of their impact on communities nationwide. Published as an ACLU Medium post, this list was shared 586 times on social media (including posts by 4 journalists) resulting in 16,190 journalist-driven impressions.