Lawrence City Commission to review policy for public police cameras
photo by: Richard Gwin
City leaders will soon provide input on the Lawrence Police Department’s policy for public cameras.
As part of its work session Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will review the policy, which details how public cameras and camera footage will be monitored, stored and potentially released. It’s estimated that it will cost the city $108,000 for the cameras and the computer server expenses related to video storage.
The police department is recommending that 19 cameras be installed on Massachusetts Street between Sixth and 11th streets, according to a memo from the police department to the commission. Some of the cameras provide a 360-degree view; others can pan, tilt and zoom. The cameras will be installed on light poles and traffic signals along the street.
The commission asked to consider adding security cameras downtown following a shooting last year on Massachusetts Street that killed three people and injured two others. City spokesman Porter Arneill said the public camera policy is an administrative policy. Such policies do not require the commission’s approval, but commissioners previously asked to consider the policy.
Sgt. Amy Rhoads said in an email to the Journal-World that currently there is not a timeline of when cameras would be installed and that discussion would begin after the commission’s review. Regarding whether the public camera program could expand beyond the 19 cameras downtown, Rhoads said that right now there is no plan to expand the number of cameras or have them outside of the downtown area.
Portions of the policy include the following, and the full policy is available on the city’s website, lawrenceks.org:
• The police chief or the authorized designee shall approve all locations for cameras and consult with legal counsel as necessary in making such determinations. Camera placement will be guided by the underlying purpose of enhancing public safety.
• Cameras shall only record video images and not sound. Cameras and recordings may be used to further criminal investigations, public safety activities and the monitoring of specific special events.
• Cameras shall be focused on public areas and will not intentionally be used to invade the privacy of individuals or observe areas where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, unless otherwise authorized by law.
• Cameras shall not be used in an unequal, discriminatory or targeted manner or to harass, intimidate or discriminate against any individual or group.
• Lawrence police personnel will not monitor the cameras live as a matter of daily police operations. Exceptions are specific large-scale special events, such as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The police chief or authorized designee could also approve live monitoring due to exigent circumstances, such as an active shooter, barricaded subject, hostage situation or a violent crime in progress.
• Camera footage will be deleted after 14 days but can be maintained for a period ranging from one to seven years if the recording is associated with one of several situations, including a criminal case, traffic citation or accident, citizen complaint regarding an officer, officer use-of-force incident or an internal investigation. A recording associated with a homicide or a death investigation, rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, violent sexual crime, or cases involving terrorism or weapons of mass destruction will be maintained indefinitely.
• Video requests must be made prior to the end of the 14-day period. A recording needed as evidence shall be copied to a suitable medium and booked into evidence in accordance with established evidence procedures.
• Supervisors must approve officer requests to view recordings, and the police chief or authorized designee must approve those requests. Public requests for recordings will be handled in accordance with the Kansas open records law.
• All public areas monitored by public safety camera equipment shall be marked in a conspicuous manner with appropriate signage to inform the public of their presence. Signs should be in well-lit areas and placed appropriately without obstruction to ensure visibility.
The City Commission will convene at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.