Constitution Project Urges Council to Strip Funding for Centralized DC Camera Network

May 9, 2008
11:27 AM

CONTACT: The Constitution Project
Corey Owens, The Constitution Project Communications Coordinator
(202) 580-6922

Constitution Project Urges Council to Strip Funding for Centralized DC Camera Network

WASHINGTON, DC - May 9 - Today, in a letter delivered to members of the Council of the District of Columbia, the Constitution Project joined the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area and the Electronic Privacy Information Center in calling on city officials to reject Mayor Adrian Fenty's request for more than $900,000 for the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency to centralize monitoring of more than 5,000 cameras - currently installed in public schools, public housing, and residential neighborhoods. Earlier this week the Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary stripped the request from the city's budget request. The letter was signed by Johnny Barnes, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, Mellisa Ngo, Senior Counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel at the Constitution Project.

The cameras are currently operated under the auspices of several different city agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department, which has implemented policies governing use and protecting individual privacy that have been heralded by law enforcement officials, public security experts, and privacy advocates as among the nation's best. The policies, developed through public hearings in 2002 and 2006, have not been adopted by HSEMA.

"Even if Councilmembers determine that some new network would be appropriate, it is important to assess carefully which cameras and how many of them should be part of such a network," signers said in the letter. "Further, before any funds are appropriated, HSEMA should develop, with public input, a robust privacy policy to govern operation of such a network. It is critical that the District preserve the important privacy and civil liberties safeguards currently in place relating to the Metropolitan Police Department's use of video surveillance cameras."

The Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee previously released sample guidelines for use by jurisdiction exploring the use of a video survaillance network. The existing MPD guidelines incoprporate many of the Committee's recommendations; former MPD Chief Charles Ramsey testified before the Council in the fall of 2006 that the Committee's guidelines were the standard he sought to match with the MPD policy.

The full "Guidelines for Public Video Surveillance" report can be viewed here

To learn more about the work of the Constitution Project's Liberty and Security Committee, visit