Officials want to keep an eye on you with ‘community cameras’
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
The City Council unanimously voted to install several new security cameras at the civic center, what they called “phase one” of a program that could mean installing surveillance cameras throughout the city.
Mayor Stephen Cassidy took pains to stress that the cameras approved Monday night were only to be installed at City Hall, the police department, and jail.
But this first phase also lays down the infrastructure for further surveillance cameras to be installed around town – a discussion the council will have this fall.
The contract approved this week calls for 35 video cameras to be installed at a cost of $156,000 from the city’s information technology fund. They will be high definition and record 12 to 30 frames per second. They will have pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities, which will be controlled and monitored by police dispatchers.
Footage from the cameras will be recorded and stored for 90 days. The cameras will be running by the end of the year.
If approved, “phase two” would include the same brand of cameras installed at places yet to be determined around town using the software and and other technology from the “phase one” cameras.
Additionally, the some of the “community cameras,” as the city calls them, would include license plate readers, according to Capt. Greg Lemmon of the San Leandro police.
The council did not question the installation at civic plaza but did have questions about cameras in public areas.
Cassidy said that the locations of the cameras shouldn’t be decided by police chief Sandra Spagnoli, but by the City Council.
Cassidy also said he wants the cameras overseen not just by the police department, but by the city manager and other city staff as well as the council. He said that a review of the system and its use should be done annually by a third party auditor.
Public speakers also did not object to the city placing cameras around City Hall, but did express misgivings about the potential public cameras.
Mike Katz-Lacabe – who is running for City Council in District 1 this November – said that if the cameras are installed in public places with no expectation of privacy, maybe the footage should be broadcast publicly for all to see on the internet to avoid police misuse.
Katz-Lacabe also said that the City Council should be in charge of the camera policy rather than the police, regardless of whether the police have good intentions and safety in mind.
“Police are not elected officials, they do not represent us,” said Katz-Lacabe.
Speaker Mia Ousley – who is running for the City Council District 5 seat – agreed that, if installed, the cameras should not solely be the jurisdiction of the police.
“Surveillance cameras are a very controversial issue,” said Ousley. “I’m concerned about expanding the program.”