‘Robust’ discussion of surveillance cameras promised for City Council committee meeting tomorrow

February 19, 2013 at 4:21 pm | In Seattle Police surveillance cameras, West Seattle news | 13 Comments

Three weeks after we published first word of the Homeland Security-funded, Seattle Police-managed surveillance cameras installed from Alki to Fauntleroy – and destined for dozens of other spots in the city – the City Council committee that approved them last year will talk about them again. We had first word last week from Councilmember Bruce Harrell that the Public Safety, Technology, and Civil Rights Committee, which he chairs, will talk about them during its meeting tomorrow at 2 pm. Here’s the official reminder sent out today:

Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, will have the Seattle Police Department at the committee table this Wednesday to discuss the port security cameras along Seattle’s shoreline. The security cameras are part of a wireless Mesh Network, a network composed of wireless access points and fiber optic cables around the city to provide first responders like SPD, Fire, and the Coast guard access to a dedicated wireless network during emergency responses.

The equipment included in the funding package from the Port Security Grant Program is vital in advancing our goal to make Seattle the most prepared city in America. City departments, along with regional and federal partners determined prevention and protection was not adequately represented in the region. Such prevention, protection and response capabilities is particularly important for public safety to the Port of Seattle, the sixth busiest in the US, Harbor Island, Washington State Ferry terminals, and cruise ship terminals.

At the committee hearing in May of 2012, the committee determined that SPD had made a strong business case for the use of these public safety cameras as part of the municipal mesh network for use only on waterways, port facilities and facing the Puget Sound. Installation of surveillance cameras installed in recreational/residential zones for general surveillance was and will not be supported by the committee.

Before the cameras can go online, the committee will have legislation in place to restrict and regulate its use to protect the public’s privacy and civil liberties.

While cameras were mentioned by SPD in the May 2012 committee briefing, Councilmember Harrell said they were not at the time described as being destined for recreational/residential areas – yet the six that were up in West Seattle by the time WSB readers pointed them out to us in late January are all in such areas.

Mayor McGinn, meantime, first told WSB on February 11th that the cameras would get a “thorough vetting” before they can be turned on.

The system apparently has been on the drawing boards since long before even the Council discussions last spring; the first version of the camera map shown publicly, displayed to us at Police HQ downtown February 1st and then published on SPD Blotter February 4th, is dated July 2010 – follow the link and note the lower-left corner.

P.S. All WSB coverage on this topic, dating back to when we broke the news about the cameras January 29th, is archived here, newest to oldest.

13 Comments

  1. I hope we get as much response and outrage and a good vetting of the issue as the drones got. I don’t want to live in a police state.

    Comment by Ordinary_Citizen — 5:15 pm February 19, 2013 #

  2. Turn the cameras on already. Only those who condone criminal behavior, or are themselves criminals, or who have punk teenagers, are against these cameras.

    Comment by Citizen Sane — 7:00 pm February 19, 2013 #

  3. It’s a little late now! to realize you don’t want to live in a police state ,I mean

    Comment by john — 7:45 pm February 19, 2013 #

  4. Citizen Sane: We really do not want to live in a police state. There must be a way to protect our privacy AND conduct some surveillance. Maybe that means no cameras. No drones. But somehow the folks that provide security and enforce our laws need some leeway. Presently judges provide that as a review check before law enforcement can act. Maybe it is this part of the equation that needs to be strengthened.

    Comment by LongTimer WS — 8:22 pm February 19, 2013 #

  5. @Citizen Sane: There’s a place for people who give up their personal freedoms so easily; I hear Russia is nice this time of year. All the meteorites say so. Please–go there now.

    Comment by Chuck and Sally's Van Man — 8:44 pm February 19, 2013 #

  6. @Citizen -You shouldn’t be so quick to judge people you don’t know. Unless you are a judge.

    Comment by rick — 8:44 pm February 19, 2013 #

  7. I am generally supportive of police, but Citizen Sane is wrong on this one. There are a lot of legitimate reasons to be against these cameras. Police officers are human too, and there have been many cases of abuse of power when given unfettered access to surveillance systems. Given the loosening of requirements for warrants and surveillance, it is very possible to have one’s privacy and freedom’s violated.
    http://www.copwatch.org/sheehanmichigandatabase.html
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dc/dcpolice/stories/stowe25.htm
    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/politics/2011/12/surveillance-cameras-threat-police-privacy/806/

    We need checks and balances.

    Comment by Tracy White — 8:58 pm February 19, 2013 #

  8. Citizen Sane, ever been to Tienanmen Square?

    Just wondering.

    Comment by datamuse — 9:10 pm February 19, 2013 #

  9. I’m not a young person, nor paricularly computer-savvy or down with the high-tech lingo (can you tell?!?) but I’m thnking the term “troll” is appropriate for Citizen Sane.
    If, by chance, you actually believe what you posted, I’d also suggest you are quite the opposite of “sane”.
    I abhor the crime we read about everyday, here on WSB, in the Seattle Times, and nationwide…I also abhor the idea of having our every public move watched by “someone”.
    Ever heard of or read George Orwell’s “1984″?
    Ever heard of or read the Bill of Rights or the US Constitution?

    Comment by anti-obstruction — 9:50 pm February 19, 2013 #

  10. Pretty funny how those who so vigorously assert their constitutional rights to privacy in a setting where the Supreme Court has ruled you don’t have one are so quick to try and drown out another American exercising his 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression bu suggesting Citizen Sane should move to Russia etc, etc.

    We’ve got real problems to solve in this country; and the world. A municipal police department adding some surveillance cameras in public settings to all the cameras already out there; that they can access if necessary, is not one of them.

    Comment by Greg — 10:24 pm February 19, 2013 #

  11. @Citizen, I am not a criminal. In fact I think I am a rather good citizen. I don’t condone criminal behavior, I don’t have punk teenagers, but I am very much against how these cameras were installed and probably were about to be used (without public vetting and information, and policies to ensure no abuse of the data.)

    Comment by Ordinary_Citizen — 8:09 am February 20, 2013 #

  12. Thanks to Citizen Sane for drawing out, yet again, some of the many reasons that reasonable, law-abiding, people should speak out about these cameras. Hope a force of people are able to show up at today’s meeting despite the mid-day scheduling.

    Comment by CE — 9:00 am February 20, 2013 #

  13. Since 9/11/01 city of Seattle has received over 100+ million dollars from Homeland Security. The city and SPD have spent it like a bunch of drunken sailors. With the spend now ask later attitude. The SPD has spent about a 1/4 of that on very expensive equipment for themselves. 2+ mil for 2 boats, millions on specialty vehicles for swat,command center and more. Most these have had to be reworked do to bad design to make them usable but they sure look nice. Add the drones and cameras. We have some very bad decision makers here. Do I feel any safer now ? no. But my freedom and wallet feel smaller.

    Comment by wetone — 9:34 am February 20, 2013 #

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