Seattle Police surveillance cameras: Another public meeting

(April photo of SPD surveillance camera installed at Admiral Way Viewpoint)
When last we checked with Mayor McGinn‘s office regarding the status of his decisionmaking on whether to give Seattle Police approval to activate the surveillance cameras installed from Fauntleroy to Alki to Admiral and beyond, they told us the ball was in SPD’s court, expecting the department to schedule “additional public meetings” (that quote’s in our March 31st update). Tonight, SPD has finally announced one more meeting: This Friday night, 7 pm, in Ballard. The announcement was made via SPD Blotter just after 8 pm tonight:

Got questions about the Port Security Grant? Missed our meetings in West Seattle and Belltown? Planning a staycation this Memorial Day weekend?

Well then, this opportunity is for you!

Tell us in person. We’ll be at the Golden Gardens Bathhouse, 8498 Seaview Pl. NW, Friday, May 24th at 7 p.m.

Can’t make it? Not a problem. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can send your thoughts to us electronically. Drop us an email at

The first two meetings were March 12 on Alki (WSB coverage here) and March 19 in Belltown. Missed the backstory? The “port-security grant” refers to a communication system including dozens of Seattle Police-managed surveillance cameras, funded by a federal grant originally described as being for port security, but since framed in a broader public-safety context. WSB readers were first to notice cameras being installed unannounced, which led to the news being broken here, if you go all the way back to the first story (January 29) in our archive.

33 Replies to "Seattle Police surveillance cameras: Another public meeting"

  • ScottA May 21, 2013 (9:50 pm)

    I generally like the cameras but SPD looks like a joke announcing a Friday before Memorial Day meeting especially with just a few days notice.

  • chuck and sally's van man May 21, 2013 (10:06 pm)

    You have to be kidding me. The Friday night before a 3-day weekend??? In Ballard, no less? That tells me exactly how much they actually want public participation/opinion… The provided email address is nothing but a dodge. This is all just more window dressing. These intrusive cameras will be up and running any day now. Mayor McNothing: Your “full public vetting” is full of holes, but that hardly makes it transparent. What a scam.

  • ruse May 21, 2013 (11:00 pm)

    The Belltown meeting ended up being a total joke anyways. Anarchists (I’m guessing that’s what they were) showed up and ruined the whole thing. Then the clip on King5 was edited in such a way to make the anarchists seem totally normal and constructive, it was hilariously bizarre being there, and then seeing the King5 clip later. Media twist is full gear. The Alki Bath House meeting was the most useful. These public forums unfortunately are not a constructive way for the city to gather suggestions from the citizens. Perhaps the last minute impromptu meeting on a holiday Friday night will catch the anarchists off guard and they won’t show. I don’t blame the police for not wanting to have public forums, they were being called terrorists the whole time and could barely get a word in edgewise.

  • rocky raccoon May 21, 2013 (11:43 pm)

    All of these public meetings are a joke. Regular working people can rarely attend these things. The people who show up are extremists, unemployed and retired people who have nowhere else they have to be. They only exist so the politicos can say “you had your chance to comment”.

  • w.s. maverick May 22, 2013 (5:49 am)

    just say no

  • Kit Case May 22, 2013 (7:06 am)

    I’ll add that Golden Gardens is about as remote a location that one could find and still call it Ballard. No bus service anymore along Shilshole Avenue at all. This effectively cuts out a segment of the population from participation.

  • robespierre May 22, 2013 (7:07 am)

    I agree; public meetings for these types of things are mostly just window dressing. The decision has already been made. A much more useful exercise would be to write your councilmember or show up at a city council meeting. Or, even sue the city.

  • Is It Me May 22, 2013 (7:33 am)

    There are valid questions with the cameras, but just to be fair…
    Why is there no “public outrage”(tm) about the cameras in Safeway? Or the cameras in Bartells? The cameras in Starbucks? Or the cameras in Thriftway? Or the cameras in Pacific Place? Or the cameras downtown now?
    Why are THESE particular cameras SO much more scary? You do realize you don’t have a legal expectation of privacy when you’re OUTSIDE right? Anyone can walk down the street and take your picture when you’re on the sidewalk. Right. So…er…I don’t want police surveillance IN my home. But once you’re outside in public, why do folks think it’s ok for a police car to drive by and look at them, or a cop on a bike or foot to look at them….but a cop can’t look at them through a camera?

  • mrsB May 22, 2013 (8:19 am)

    I second Is It Me’s post, in fact I third, fourth and fifth it!

  • Civik May 22, 2013 (8:23 am)

    So, ‘We want as little public response as possible’. Sounds like Seattle City Govt MO.

  • cr May 22, 2013 (8:34 am)

    Come onto WSB, make snide comment about government, pat self on back for social and civic awareness… Really showed them.

  • Silly Goose May 22, 2013 (8:54 am)

    Our neighborhood wants these camera’s, YES YES YES YES put them every where please, the junkies and theives are too many to keep track off even with strong block watch groups. We have had two burgularies on our block in two weeks in the middle of the day. If we had camera’s we would be able to track the scum down!!

  • Lura Ercolano May 22, 2013 (9:31 am)

    I don’t have a problem with public cameras in general, and I might support cameras as part of a well-planned system in which the cameras address an actual problem.
    But this was just ridiculous – as far as I can figure out, the cameras were put up simply because the federal government gave a grant – what the cameras are actually FOR, and how they’ll be used, maintained, monitored, etc is all being figured out afterwards, with the Police department retroactively designing a purpose for the cameras and a way of using them, and applications that retroactively justify the whole program..
    And this from a police department that is under Justice Department supervision for various issues? It didnt occur to anyone that public oversight, transparency, or even havng the City Council be informed was appropriate?
    At best, this is a reckless use of Federal funds. Yeah, the cameras really dont violate anyone’s privacy, etc, because they are in public anyway. But they do point out problems in spending tax dollars just because you can.

  • thistle stairs May 22, 2013 (9:31 am)

    People worry about big brother but after the Boston bombing it should be evident to all that it’s “little brother” that is constantly filming.If you leave your house you are probably on camera somewhere, get comfortable with the idea because it is not going to change.

  • Rob May 22, 2013 (9:40 am)

    The cameras have been on for months now.

  • Nick May 22, 2013 (9:55 am)

    Safeway isn’t pointing cameras at people’s residences and they are s private enitity. The govt has police powers and corruption issues and are public that is the difference. Is it me

  • All for it May 22, 2013 (10:00 am)

    Robberies….check, DUI’s….check, Assaults……check, Unsolved murders….check, Gunfire…check. Sounds like we need more police. Seems like nobody wants to pay more taxes. So….A win/win I’d say. Does anyone care if the Anarchists dont frequent Alki because big brother is watching?

  • panda May 22, 2013 (10:03 am)

    The police did this quietly in the beginning as they knew announcing it would open it up to useless banter (in most cases). Not surprised they picked an inconvenient meeting time. I don’t oppose these cameras. I get that some people may be concerned about privacy in their apartments where these cameras can see into…so mask those. Rregarding cameras in stores, that’s private property and closed circuit so only the store see’s it. Same thing as the camera’s at my house. Safety first!

    Now, turn on those cameras!

  • cr May 22, 2013 (10:06 am)

    agreed All for it.

  • Dave May 22, 2013 (10:34 am)

    Safety First! Freedom Last!

  • robespierre May 22, 2013 (11:51 am)

    These are the same police who were about to start operating UAVs in the name of “making us more secure”. But as citizens we said that that crossed the line. Unfortunately, I doubt there will be the same level of outrage with these cameras, even though the potential for abuse is no less menacing.
    As for Safeway, Walgreens, et al operating their own security cameras– those are private entities and can do what they like on their premises. You and I tacitly consent to that monitoring when we step foot on their property.
    The Government, with its exclusive exercise of police power, has and should be held to a much higher standard of care. The onus is on them to justify the need for surveillance of of the public because of something called the 4th Amendment.

  • Phil Mocek May 22, 2013 (12:52 pm)

    IIM wrote, “Why is there no `public outrage'(tm) about the cameras in Safeway? Or the cameras in Bartells? The cameras in Starbucks? Or the cameras in Thriftway? Or the cameras in Pacific Place? Or the cameras downtown now?”

    I speak for nobody but myself, but I find a large difference between independent, privately-owned, cameras, and a network of cameras owned by our government, recording everyone’s actions and storing them away for later in case they’re of need someday. Our government should not be stockpiling information about us just because we go about our business in public.

  • no cameras May 22, 2013 (12:54 pm)

    STEP ONE: Cameras
    STEP TWO: Other things like this.
    DHS Fourth Amendment Free Zones

    The youtube explanation:

  • Citizen May 22, 2013 (1:23 pm)

    I’m so disgusted at the SPD holding this meeting on Memorial Day weekend. How transparent they have been all along in not wanting to listen to the public (their “servants” as in “public servants”). I got the sense from going to both and other meetings that they don’t hear what you are saying. Neither does Councilmember Harrell (I thought he was better), licata (doesn’t seem to have a clue), Bagshaw (no response whatsoever – so I get a “talk to the hand”. Do they not remember that the public didn’t allow them to do this at Cal Anderson park? The mayor promised a thorough vetting before it is operational so after this “vetting” will this meet his requirement? O’Brien, please stand up and be heard.

    The sham excuse of using tax dollars for possible abuses is outrageous! These are my hard earned tax dollars and I want them put to better use. Shame on you elected officials of Seattle! You don’t have to follow like sheep and take tax dollars to abuse your citizens. You can stand up and show the world that we can do better. You should stand with your citizens and be with us. Don’t drink the HSD koolade (I kept trying to spell the powdery sugary substance that is mixed with water but my phone kept trying to say “kook-aide”. )

  • All for it May 22, 2013 (1:52 pm)

    Personally I think its silly to make it into an argument about “your rights”. IMO the #1 reason we have a government is to PROTECT us. Wether thats from ourselves or somebody else. Look at how our taxes are spent….we pay to protect us from others, from ourselves. We pay to protect animals, lands, our homes, our finances, others in our comunities. I personally feel more safe with cameras watching us than having a bunch of yahoos walking around with concealed carry permits excersizing “thier rights” and hoping they’ll protect me. can i go out and buy a gun? yep. can i go out and take self defense classes? yep. should i have to? NO. I PAY THE GOVERNMENT TO DO THAT!
    -what could you possibly be doing on Alki that you worried will be cached by the government for later use?

  • Bob Dewey May 22, 2013 (9:12 pm)

    Maybe people should actually read the constitution or state laws regarding cameras in the public. Anything you can see with your eyes from a public location is LEGAL. If you aren’t doing anything wrong then you have nothing to fear. Do people forget that the horrific incident in Boston was solved and the terrorist identified due to CAMERAS!

  • M. May 22, 2013 (10:46 pm)

    No problem here with the cameras.
    I don’t agree with the slippery-slope argument, or the “possible abuses”.
    Regarding the Safeway, Starbuck’s etc. cameras, they record and store what happens on public streets and sidewalks, without consent, as do banks, ATM’s and others. Many times that footage has been used by the Police and other agencies.

    Point being, it’s okay for private cameras to capture and store images of those in the public, but our Government cannot?

    Is it me, and all for it, I agree.

  • Molly May 22, 2013 (11:52 pm)

    The purpose of our government is to protect our fundamental rights, including the right to privacy. This isn’t a subjective internet opinion, its a civics fact that is clearly stated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

    I’ve read the WA State Constitution, and it goes above and beyond the US Constitution in the language used to protect our right to privacy – it says no person shall be disturbed in his private affairs without authority of law. Yes, observations that can be made with the extent of human senses in public are legal. The dragnet DHS surveillance infrastructure might be the equivalent of a citywide network of officers hovering 20 feet off the ground who never sleep and don’t have eyelids or a moral compass and can instantaneously communicate your activities and whereabouts to all sorts of government agents and vehicles and fusion centers and so on. What human can do that? The WA Supreme Court has ruled that certain kinds of new surveillance technology like infrared and GPS require a warrant because they gather information in a way that surpasses human sense capability. These rulings only happened after citizens had their rights violated. Who’s to say that these new zooming/mesh network/ubiquitous cameras won’t end up violating our privacy rights in a similar fashion?

  • Phil Mocek May 23, 2013 (12:01 am)

    Bob Dewey, you won’t mind giving us all the password to your e-mail account, will you? Do you forego window blinds and let anyone who passes look in on you and your family when you’re home at night? You have nothing to hide, right?

    Don’t forget that 1) suspects in the horrific incident to which you referred were identified almost entirely with images and video recorded by privately-operated cameras that were voluntarily provided to investigators, 2) the threat of hundreds of cameras focused on the finish line–the sort we all know will be there, not obscure security cameras up on poles–didn’t deter the bombers.

  • Bob Dewey May 23, 2013 (1:11 pm)

    If you close your blinds then the camera can’t see in the area. If you take no steps to gain privacy and have no blinds then you have no expectation of privacy. If you have a password then it has an expectation of privacy. And if you actually looked at the presentation of what is caught on the cameras it is only a few condos but the camera is far enough away the height difference doesn’t matter you see the same if you were standing next to the camera and take a photo. If people are this upset about the cameras pay attention to the city council who want the police to have body cameras recoding all day….every contact, every call they go to, every house they go in….everything.

  • Phil Mocek May 23, 2013 (1:37 pm)

    Police are paid by the public to enforce public policy with force. It is crucial that we monitor their on-the-job actions. The reverse is not true.

  • Bob Dewey May 23, 2013 (10:14 pm)

    So Phil you would be completely fine with the police coming into your house because the neighbors think they heard arguing coming from your house and called 9-11. It is late at night and you are in your underwater and they come in your house and make sure everything is safe. You would be fine with them recording the whole thing which also means its available to the public under the public disclosure requests?

  • Phil Mocek May 24, 2013 (7:24 am)

    Bob, I don’t understand how this is relevant to the discussion at hand, but anyone who doesn’t want police to come into his or her home with recording devices can tell them to come back with a search warrant.

    That I’m going about my lawful business in public is not justification for our government to stockpile information about my actions. In this country, we’re not supposed to investigate everyone just to discover the bad actions of some people.

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