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What Is DCWatch?
|Good Morning Chairwoman Morella, Congresswoman Norton, members of the
Subcommittee, and all the distinguished guests here today. I am Margret
Nedelkoff Kellems, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice for the
District of Columbia.
Thank you for convening this hearing on the high-profile and often
misunderstood topic of the District's use of video technology as a tool in
ensuring the public's safety. I would like to take just a few minutes to
outline the Mayor's priorities and concerns regarding the use of this
powerful tool, and what steps we are taking to ensure that our practices
are judicious and relative to our needs. Chief Ramsey will discuss the
specifics of the current operation of the system and the policies and
procedures that MPD is drafting to govern its operation.
Mayor Williams has consistently identified neighborhood safety and quality
of life as among his top priorities for his Administration. Since the
events of September 11, homeland or in this case hometown - security has
taken on a new significance, particularly in our nation's capital. But
Mayor Williams continues to stress that in our pursuit of these goals, we
must take great pains not to unduly impact the personal privacy interests
of our citizens, the many people who work in our city, and the more than
20 million people who visit annually.
Video technology is not a new law enforcement tool. In fact, law
enforcement has been using video technology for years as a means of
collecting criminal evidence. As you may well imagine, without video
surveillance, MPD would not have had nearly the success it has in closing
down many of the drug markets that impact our city. Of course, what we are
talking about today is substantially different than using video in
targeted law enforcement efforts, and we appreciate the opportunity to
discuss this issue in an open forum with you today.
As video technology has moved to the forefront as an effective tool in
ensuring the public's safety and protecting against threats to our city,
Mayor Williams has committed to an open dialogue and discussion of the benefits and concerns on both sides
of the issue. We recognize that engaging all of the stakeholders in the
development of our system - both the security experts and those seeking
to protect our privacy rights - is the only way we will come to an
acceptable result that everyone can understand and live with.
The Mayor has been very clear, and all of the stakeholders agree that
the primary objective of the system is to enhance public safety during
major events, times of heightened alert, and actual emergencies whether
they are terrorism-related or not. During these times, law enforcement
resources are our most valuable commodity in terms of ensuring safety
and peace. Video technology is tremendously useful in helping us
allocate and manage those resources effectively. Instead of relying on
radio call-in information from officers scattered around the event or
city - officers whose field of vision is limited to their immediate
surrounding - video technology allows us to monitor large and distant
areas quickly and unobtrusively. That information allows us to redirect
officers, know where reinforcement is needed, and anticipate where we
might need other types of equipment or response resources. This
information assists in protecting the public, as well as our first
In fact, the utility of video technology at major events was proven
before September 11th. MPD leased video technology equipment during the IMF / World Bank
demonstrations, the Inaugural, and even the NBA All-Star Game to assist
in resource deployment during the events. Based on those successes and
in anticipation of the planned IMF / World Bank meetings and
demonstrations scheduled for the end of September last year, MPD began
the development of a small video network capability in the Joint
Operations Command Center. Since September 11
MPD has expanded the video network to approximately one dozen cameras,
focused on key areas of potential terrorist threats, and has been pursuing
linkages with video systems operated by area transportation
departments and Metro.
Even while we pursue the use of video technology in those
kinds of situations, Mayor Williams has asked MPD to explore the possible future uses of this
technology for controlling crime on a daily basis. Of course, that is a big step from where we are
now, and there are many issues that must be considered and evaluated before we move forward.
Questions regarding individual privacy rights as well as important operational concerns like
the location of the cameras, how are they monitored - by whom and
from where, are the video feeds tape recorded for evidence, and how
long and for what purposes are the tapes maintained, would have
to be worked out in great detail and MPD is already engaged in that
It is important to note that the video surveillance system is not
intended to be a primary neighborhood-policing tool. There is no
substitute for the security offered by the presence of officers
patrolling neighborhoods themselves. That said, we must be responsive to
public concerns about the potential uses of video surveillance once that
capacity is in place. Several neighborhoods have requested that cameras
be installed in their communities, hoping that it would have a deterrent
effect on criminal activity, and perhaps even assist is capturing and
prosecuting criminals. Certainly there will be disagreement among
different communities regarding the appropriateness of video
surveillance. Bear in mind that at the core of MPD's policing philosophy
is a respect for the interests of communities. Chief Ramsey's
Partnerships for Problem Solving model has as its core value that the
police are to work with communities to solve problems together in a way
that is acceptable to all involved.
But the fact remains that in some places - certain communities, stores,
ATM machines, around government buildings, for example - video monitoring equipment
has helped control crime and convict criminals. Mayor Williams has instructed us to assess
the benefits and burdens of these applications to determine whether on
balance, video technology as a community crime fighting tool is
effective, even as we move increasingly more patrol officers onto the
streets to work with our citizens in their neighborhoods.
Chief Ramsey will explain more fully the times, locations, and
deployment of these cameras, but I want to reemphasize that these
cameras are an extraordinary tool for extraordinary times. We are not
monitoring the streets of the District around the clock, and listening
in on people's conversations. We don't even have the capability of doing
that. We are not tracking the movements of individuals around town or
in private buildings. We don't have the capability to do that.
Nor are we using video to identify individuals, such as through
biometric imaging. We don't have the capability to do that either.
Rather, this is a prudent, limited, and legal use of video technology in
support of our goal of ensuring peace and public safety during
extraordinary times. Mayor Williams believes that we owe it to our
residents, workers, and visitors to be vigilant, innovative, and careful
in how we pursue that goal. Therefore, we monitor a limited number of
public spaces during special events or times of heightened alert, as
announced by the federal government. And as Chief Ramsey will explain
more fully, MPD is currently finalizing its operating policies and
procedures for those uses for the Mayor's review.
I thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today and I would
be happy to answer any questions you may have.