Big Brother in the Parks: ACLU-WA Opposes Police Surveillance Cameras

News Release: 
Friday, December 4, 2009

The ACLU-WA objected vociferously when – with no prior debate – the City of Seattle installed police surveillance cameras in Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park. We warned of the dangers of government cameras recording the activities of law-abiding citizens in the parks, and noted that without safeguards for privacy, inappropriate uses of such cameras likely would result.

Sure enough, we obtained surveillance footage of a camera following and zooming in on a couple, with particular interest on a girl in a mini-skirt. The ACLU contacted the Mayor’s office, which confirmed there were other instances of improper live monitoring and that changes had been made to ensure that records were kept of officers viewing live video feeds. We also met with the City Auditor to discuss our concerns about the project’s evaluation. Under budgetary pressures, the city council halted installation of the controversial police cameras in three other parks in November 2008.