University police shared detection data with ICE

Victoria Bresnahan, News Editor & Tamonda Griffiths, News Writer

The university Police Department has been linked to providing license plate recognition data to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement through a cloud-based online database.

Patrick Dilger, director of Integrated Communications & Marketing, said, in a telephone interview, the university disabled the sharing function of the database, Vigilant Solutions, once the linkage was discovered this past week.

“The university has never directly shared information with ICE,” stated President Joe Bertolino, in a campus announcement email, “nor are we aware of any instance in which information about members of the campus community has been accessed or used by the federal agency.”

According to a Vigilant Solutions data sharing report — created on Nov. 7, 2018 — ICE was receiving “detection data” from the university, and other police departments such as Fairfield, Trumbull and Norwalk.

Bertolino stated in the email the nation-wide database was used for gathering data on license-plate surveillance, drug investigations, locating stolen vehicles, violations of restraining or protective orders and investigating violent crimes.

University Police Chief Joseph Dooley was unavailable for comment after multiple calls. Lt. Richard Randall could not confirm nor deny the linkage.

In September 2017, Bertolino stated in a campus announcement email, protocols were enacted in the event a federal immigration officer came to the university seeking information or an undocumented student.

Jonathon Gonzalez, alumnus and Connecticut Students for a Dream Policy Coordinator, said in a telephone interview, the university’s actions could be allegedly breaking the protocols established to protect undocumented students.

“It’s really appalling to think that you could be putting yourself at risk if you [are pursuing] higher education,” said Gonzalez.

David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, stated in an emailed statement, it is the university has ceased sharing data via the database and affirmed to protecting immigrants’ rights.

“The fact that the university seemed surprised to learn its police department was sharing information with ICE, however, is alarming and raises additional concerning questions,” stated McGuire. “Does the university’s police department understand how Vigilant’s technology works? Was information being taken from them without their knowledge? The university should answer these questions, and/or ask Vigilant and ICE as to how they ended up on that list. They have a duty to the university community to find out exactly what was going on.”

He stated the university’s response highlights why state laws are needed to protect privacy and immigrants’ rights.

Edits made on March 17, 2019.

Photo Credit: Alexandra Scicchitano

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