- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 9, 2002

Members of the D.C. Council are looking to scrap the city's year-old surveillance camera program, a day after approving regulations for the cameras.
Council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, said he sees some benefit in limited use of the cameras but is leaning toward introducing legislation that would to do away with them, expressing concern that surveillance security companies will "get their hooks" into the police budget.
"The research I have shows that the few companies that [sell surveillance technology] are always pushing for more cameras, and once they get in, you can't get them out," Mr. Chavous said.
Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said he has heard from the community "and the response I have gotten is overwhelmingly against the cameras."
In a contentious hearing Thursday, the council passed legislation to regulate the police department's use of cameras to monitor the city's monuments and federal buildings. But several members criticized Mayor Anthony A. Williams and police Chief Charles H. Ramsey for beginning the surveillance program last year without their knowledge or consent.
In fact, the council initially opposed the legislation in a 7-6 vote, but member Sandy Allen, Ward 8 Democrat, later changed her vote to approve the measure.
Some members now are siding with civil libertarians, calling the cameras ineffective and an invasion of privacy.
Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, has been working with D.C. police and the American Civil Liberties Union since February to draft legislation on regulating use of the cameras.
The regulations allow police to use the cameras only for special events, such as scheduled rallies, protests and marches. The cameras cannot be used to target any individual, unless an individual is seen committing a crime. In addition, the system can be used only to observe locations that are in public view and where there is no general expectation of privacy.
No recordings are to be made without public knowledge or without a court order. Any recordings made will be stored for only 72 hours, unless the tape is needed as evidence.
The regulations also direct the police to give the public notice if any new cameras are installed. Additions may be made only under "exigent circumstances," a stipulation most council members said was too vague.
Mrs. Paterson, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the police, has introduced a second bill that would offer more restrictions. The legislation would offer specific definitions and greater stipulations about when and where a camera can be used and for what purposes. She has scheduled a committee hearing on the bill for Dec. 12.
City police began using 14 cameras last year after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The cameras came to the city through a service contract that was paid for mostly with federal funds, along with some money from the department's capital budget.
Mr. Chavous called the cameras a "hands-off approach" to law enforcement, a method he said cannot work in the District or any other urban community.
Mrs. Patterson said she has heard no consensus about the cameras, but said it must be understood that "we are redefining privacy with this issue."

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