Law enforcement officials plan to ask the Legislature this year for the right to collect intelligence information on citizens without having to publicly disclose who they are monitoring or why.
It's a proposal that drew sharp warnings and concerns from public records and transparency advocates at a meeting today where a variety of changes to state public data laws were discussed.
The head of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Dave Pecchia, said the proposal to collect intelligence
information on suspected terrorists, gang members or other suspected criminals is essential to ensure public safety to citizens in Minnesota. He said Minnesota is one of two states that doesn't have that classification of data and it hinders the ability to share information with law enforcement officials in other states.
"We want to get it on the table so we can have this discussion at the State Legislature," Pecchia said. "Take care of any misconceptions about what police are going to do with the data....We understand there is a concern, but the benefit wlll outweigh the concern."
Don Gemberling, an open government expert with the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, said similar proposals have been defeated in the past because of concerns about abuse of the information. He said past proposals have mirrored federal law, which is very kind to law enforcement, has weak auditing standards and makes it difficult for the public to know when information is being collected on them.
"It's just not right for people to be making decisions about us on bad information, based on secret information," said Gemberling. "It flies in the face of the basic way we ought to be handling personal information in our society."
The proposal was discussed at a MNCOGI meeting where a variety of proposals for changing the state's public data law were discussed. The state's Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) is proposing more than a dozen changes to the existing law. The police chief's proposal is not part of the IPAD proposal.