Archive for Friday, June 8, 2012

Camera cues

Thanks to those who called attention to the need for a policy to cover the use of police cameras in downtown Lawrence.

June 8, 2012


Some public participation before and during Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting helped city leaders make a better decision about the addition of police surveillance cameras in downtown Lawrence.

The proposal to use federal grant money to purchase two or three cameras to allow Lawrence police to monitor activities on Massachusetts Street originally was on the City Commission’s consent agenda, where it likely would have been approved in a single vote, along with about 15 other routine items. After hearing from the public on the matter, however, city officials decided to place the cameras on the regular agenda, which meant it would be discussed separately at Tuesday’s meeting and public comment would be allowed.

After hearing both support for and concerns about the new cameras, city commissioners chose to allow the system to be installed but only after they approve a detailed policy on how the cameras will be used. Although surveillance cameras are a legitimate law enforcement tool, residents have legitimate concerns about how they will be used. Lawrence police had an opportunity to try out the cameras during the Final Four celebrations in downtown Lawrence last spring. The department installed one camera that remains in place at the intersection of Ninth and Massachusetts and used three other temporary cameras to monitor the celebration. Police Chief Tarik Khatib said the new cameras primarily would be used to monitor large celebrations but he hoped to have a system in place soon that would allow officers to record footage and keep it for about 48 hours so it could be used, if needed, as part of an investigation.

It’s hard to argue with using the cameras to help keep celebrations safe and as an aid to solve a crime or find a missing child. However, it’s important, especially as the city tries to attract more residents to downtown, to make sure the cameras aren’t used in a way that unduly invades individuals’ privacy.

In a day and age when just about everyone you know is carrying a video camera in his or her purse or pocket — it’s called a cellphone — people pretty much have to live with the possibility that anything they do in public may be recorded and shared. However, as some local groups and individuals aptly pointed out, government recordings of public activities raise concerns about individual privacy. It’s one thing to monitor someone walking down the sidewalk or someone engaged in an illegal act and something else to use a camera to see what someone on a park bench is reading or even to look in the windows of downtown residences to see what is going on.

There’s nothing to indicate Lawrence police plan to do either of those things, but it’s important for the city to have a policy in place that outlines how surveillance cameras can be used. Thanks to the members of the public who voiced their concerns and the city commissioners who listened, the city will have such a policy in place.


lgreen17 6 years ago

Thanks to the members of the public who voiced their concerns and the city commissioners who listened, the city will have such a policy in place.

You are welcome!

John Hampton 6 years ago

I've read your last three comments on various stories... and have come to the conclusion that you really need to seek profession help.... that and maybe, move.

JustNoticed 6 years ago

Suggesting you move was just the final jab. What he's really point out to you is that you are a sick twist full of hate.

Cai 6 years ago

I understand your point, but you need to understand that not all of us who dislike the idea of being able to be scrutinized at will by the government (city, federal, or anywhere in between) are criminals, or even anything less than good-hearted.

I understand the public place argument and everything, but for me, it comes down to one simple fact:

I don't trust that the government will always use this to my benefit. Yes, that's the intent now. Yes, that's going to be the stated intent later. But the principles of an Orwellian world are very much in play already, and I don't have a particular desire to encourage them. I won't tell you that we live in that world now - though some people would. We have a lot of freedoms, and unfortunately, those freedoms mean that sometimes, people get away with crime. and it SUCKS.

There's already evidence, however, of camera footage being used for unlawful reasons, and (separately) of camera footage being used lawfully that has 'caught' the wrong person or people.

Obviously, our justice system isn't perfect now, and could use some help. But in this particular case, I'm not convinced that the laws we make now are going to do enough to keep us from sliding closer to an Orwellian world. Fighting each step is important, to me. If your privacy and free thought isn't as important to you, then you're welcome to that opinion, and we can simply agree to disagree.

But as a non-criminal, 'innocent' (according to the law) person, I do still, in fact, take issue with these cameras - and I recognize that this issue means that little Johnny might get away with more than he otherwise would.

Gedanken 6 years ago

I am going to toss out another proposal. How about we take that money and buy cameras for a group of citizens to follow around the cops in Lawrence just for their safety. Well, for their safety and maybe to make sure they do their job in an ethical and proper manner. Don't worry. We will destroy all video after 48 hours.

pti3 6 years ago

This is the second time the ljworld has misrepresented the events at the city commission meeting last Tuesday on issues involving cameras downtown. To clarify, the commission has NOT approved the purchase nor installation of cameras downtown--not yet anyway. The commission approved the Police Chief to apply for a grant because the deadline for application is apparently the end of June. There was plenty of opposition by the public at the meeting,and no public speakers in support of police surveillance cameras downtown-- just a letter from businesses downtown in support.
The commission stated they did not realize anyone would be upset by surveillance downtown which is why it wasn't announced in a way where the public would have a chance to oppose it. They decided to allow the chief to apply for the grant because of the timeline - to secure the money IN CASE cameras are approved. The commission said they would like regulations on how the data is used BEFORE approval of cameras downtown. They also agreed there should be Public Meetings before approval also. I urge anyone opposed to this to be at the city commission meetings. On privacy and cameras, there are many communities who are trying to stop the cameras - a quick look at aclu sites for Chicago, California, Ohio and many more paint an ominous picture. Also, on privacy issues, Daniel Solove, professor of law at George Washington University, wrote a book, Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, exerpt found at link below:

Liberty275 6 years ago

Keep the cameras. Make any information gathered by the police via cams unavailable as evidence or usable to obtain warrants. Let all the cops sit in a big room and watch CCTV and when a person is being assaulted or some a business is being burglarized, send cops to intervene.

NONE of the images from public cameras should ever be regarded as evidence. If the police need a system to help them intervene in blatant criminal activity, fine. That is just laziness and excusable. When the fruits of the city's laziness start showing up in court documents and as evidence, then it's time to take down the cameras.

I hope they choose the sensible way of using technology to make our streets safer and not merely as a crutch to make putting people in jail easier.

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