- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said he supports the Metropolitan Police Department's use of surveillance cameras despite waning support on the council.
The mayor said the police cameras can help maintain a high level of security and deter crime.
"Surveillance cameras properly employed with the sensible regulations can be an effective tool," Mr. Williams said at his weekly press briefing.
He said D.C. Council members' recent debate over and criticism of the surveillance program during a hearing last week is understandable and appropriate.
The council last Thursday narrowly passed legislation to regulate the police department's use of surveillance cameras. The 13 council members also criticized the mayor for "circumventing the democratic process" by instituting the surveillance program without their knowledge or consent.
Before giving a speech on his homeland-security bill on Tuesday, President Bush toured with Mr. Williams and Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey the Joint Operations Command Center, the nerve center of the surveillance program. Hundreds of cameras most controlled by federal agencies are linked to the center, including 14 operated solely by the city.
Mr. Bush praised Mr. Williams for taking steps to ensure security and aiding "first responders" fire, police and emergency medical services workers using the cameras as a tool.
But the president would not comment on the local debate about security vs. privacy concerns.
Mr. Williams yesterday would not indicate whether he and Mr. Bush discussed the matter during the tour.
"If you want to know the president's view, you'll have to ask him. I'm not going to go out and pretend to speak for him," Mr. Williams said.
Meanwhile, some council members have said they are close to introducing legislation to abolish the cameras.
The council last Thursday initially opposed the legislative regulations on a 7-6 vote, saying it would send a message to Mr. Williams and Chief Ramsey that the cameras are unacceptable. But it later reversed its position and voted 7-6 to allow the department to use its 14 closed-circuit television cameras.
Council members Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, and Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said they are close to concluding that the city would be better served without the cameras.
Officials in the mayor's office said Mr. Williams would oppose any legislation that would abolish the cameras.
Some members expressed discomfort with spending money on cameras instead of hiring more police officers and providing better deployment.
Mr. Williams opposed a bill introduced this year by council member David Catania, at-large Republican, that would have mandated that 60 percent of the city's police officers be placed on street patrols.
"The council and I came up with a plan to deploy more officers, and I think it can be documented that we are getting more police on the street," Mr. Williams said yesterday.

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