- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

D.C. police have outlined their plans for a surveillance-camera system, and would limit its use to special events and certain public places, according to a copy of the draft regulations obtained by The Washington Times.
Hoping to avoid legislative restrictions on the use of the surveillance system, the Metropolitan Police Department developed operating regulations and procedural guidelines. Officials said yesterday they are confident those regulations will be enough to satisfy D.C. Council members concerned about privacy issues.
"It is my hope that our general policies will be enough to satisfy everyone who has an opinion on this issue," Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer said yesterday.
Chief Gainer said council members have told him that legislation restricting the use of cameras will only be drafted if the D.C. police regulations do not go far enough to prevent abuse.
The cameras will only be used for special events, such as scheduled rallies, protests and marches, which frequently are held in the city, according to a copy of the department's internal policy and regulations for its closed-circuit-camera system.
The camera systems "shall not be used to target any individuals arbitrarily," unless an individual is seen in the commission of a crime. In addition, the system will only be used to "observe locations that are in public view and where there is no expectation of privacy."
Planned events will be recorded and stored for a minimum of 72 hours.
The most stringent restriction is placed on the use of audio surveillance combined with the cameras, according to the draft copy of the regulations.
"We would need to have a judge issue a warrant in order to use the audio component," Chief Gainer said.
D.C. police officials announced in early February they planned to link hundreds of cameras already in use by federal and D.C. agencies to their Synchronized Operations Command Center. Police also were looking to link more than 200 cameras in Metrorail stations and in D.C. public schools.
The announcement touched off a wave of criticism from local and national civil liberties groups, which demanded written regulations within 30 days so they could review the city's plans.
D.C. police met that deadline and are awaiting recommendations from those groups and legal experts before submitting the regulations to the council.
Civil libertarians, wary of the city's promise to monitor only public events and concerned that the department may change its policies in the future, want the D.C. Council to pass legislation governing the use of the cameras.
And some remain skeptical about the effectiveness of the cameras.
"We have listened closely to the comments of the D.C. police, and the information we have on the cameras' effectiveness differs from theirs," said Johnny Barnes, American Civil Liberties Union National Capital Area executive director.
"We remain opposed to the camera surveillance, because there is no evidence to support their effectiveness."
The ACLU says it is worried about more invasive measures, like facial-recognition technology.
"How long do you think it will take for them to become frustrated with the limitations of their technology before they go after face recognition?" asked Ronald Hampton, executive director of the National Black Police Association.
"We need legislation so [D.C. police] can be held accountable and punishment does not arbitrarily rest on the chief," he said.
The ACLU has forwarded a copy of the proposed regulations to the NAACP Metropolitan Police and Criminal Justice Review task force for further study.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide