[Virtual Event] Legitimizing True Safety

June 3rd, 2020 - 10:00 am to 11:30 am

Online via Zoom Webinar Pacific Time (PDT)

In 2016, the Detroit Police Department rolled out a real-time surveillance program called Project Green Light as a public-private partnership at eight gas stations in Detroit. The program was launched as a “real-time crime fighting” tool with camera connections monitored around the clock by police headquarters. Flashing green lights indicating the presence of these cameras are a constant reminder of this surveillance. Although the project claims its purpose is to improve neighborhood safety, after adding nearly 700 cameras and mobile devices and introducing facial recognition technology, there is no evidence the program has had that impact. Since COVID-19 hit the city, a program that is supposed to be used to “deter, identify, and solve crime,” has since been turned against Detroiters accused of violating social distancing orders. The city has increased police patrols in parks, regularly conducts flyovers and relies on the Project Green Light camera system to monitor compliance. Detroit police have already issued over 1,700 tickets at up to $1,000 per ticket to residents already struggling with poverty wages, and in a city that is 80% Black or African American. What does real safety mean in a time of crisis? How do mass surveillance technologies impact Black and Brown communities? How can we build a vision of safety that ensures thriving neighborhoods instead of criminalizing poor communities? Join us in exploring these essential questions with Tawana Petty, in conversation with Eric Williams of the Detroit Justice Center, Clare Garvie of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, and Cierra Robson, a PhD Candidate in Sociology and Social Policy at Harvard University.


A note on content

We are committed to a robust and free academic discourse. However, this means some topics in this discussion may be uncomfortable or disturbing to some members of the audience. If this is the case for you, we invite you to view parts of the video of the event afterward or join a different event in the future.

Our community standards

Stanford PACS strives to provide rigorous academic discussions and a welcoming environment for all speakers and attendees. Please note that we will not tolerate any individuals who attempt to disrupt the conversation, use inappropriate language, or harass other participants and speakers. We reserve the right to remove any individuals engaging in such behavior from this event.



  • Tawana Petty - DCSL Non-Resident Fellow
  • Eric Williams - Detroit Justice Center
  • Clare Garvie - Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law
  • Cierra Robson - Harvard University

Race, Tech, and Civil Society Event Series

The global pandemic gives new urgency to conversations about race, technology, and civil society. As we depend on digital communications for every aspect of our daily lives, who is left behind? How are technologies being used to surveil communities of color – and how do communities respond to such surveillance? Why is it critical for people impacted by technology to have a voice in how that technology is regulated and employed by governments?

Join us for conversations with scholars, practitioners, activists, and policy experts to explore these issues. Learn more about the rest of the series.