Dear Senators Moran, Blunt, and Fischer,
I am writing on behalf of the members of the Fraternal Order of Police to advise you of our strong support for S. 466, the “Kelsey Smith Act.”
In June 2007, 18-year-old Kelsey Ann Smith was abducted in broad daylight in the parking lot of a Target store. Kelsey’s abduction was captured on the store’s closed-circuit security camera clearly showing she was in imminent danger. Desperate to find her, Kelsey’s wireless carrier service was contacted numerous times by her family and law enforcement. The carrier was even issued a subpoena by the District Attorney’s office requesting the location of Kelsey’s phone. Despite the obvious grave danger Kelsey was facing, her wireless provider was hesitant to disclose the location information, citing privacy concerns and current law. Four days after her abduction, law enforcement located Kelsey’s body within 45 minutes of her wireless provider releasing the “cell-site location” or “ping” information from her cell phone.
This legislation would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require telecommunications service providers to release the location data, as it relates to a specific user’s cellular device in dire circumstances such as the risk of death, serious bodily injury, or the user calls for emergency services. It is critical to public safety that law enforcement have the adequate tools necessary to investigate and solve crimes while ensuring the privacy of all our citizens. Any legislation that is adopted must ensure that law enforcement, subject to appropriate judicial oversight and approval, maintains its ability to access and recover digital evidence while addressing the challenges we face in gathering electronic evidence. If the latter issue goes unaddressed, investigators will miss leads, investigation times will be lengthened, the public will be less safe, and victims will be denied justice. If law enforcement had had access to Kelsey’s cell-site information sooner, they may have been able to save her life.
On behalf of the more than 356,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, I am proud to offer our support for this legislation. If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me or Executive Director Jim Pasco in our Washington office.