Logosm.gif (1927 bytes)
navlinks.gif (4688 bytes)
Hruler04.gif (5511 bytes)

Back to Privacy vs. Security main page

Margret Nedelkoff Kellems, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice
Privacy vs. Security: Electronic Surveillance in the Nation’s Capital
March 22, 2002




Dorothy Brizill
Bonnie Cain
Jim Dougherty
Gary Imhoff
Phil Mendelson
Mark David Richards
Sandra Seegars


DCWatch Archives
Council Period 12
Council Period 13
Council Period 14

Election 1998
Election 2000
Election 2002

Election 2004
Election 2006

Government and People
Anacostia Waterfront Corporation
Boards and Com
Campaign Finance
Chief Financial Officer
Chief Management Officer
City Council
Control Board
Corporation Counsel
DC Agenda
Elections and Ethics
Fire Department
FOI Officers
Inspector General
Housing and Community Dev.
Human Services
Mayor's Office
Mental Health
Motor Vehicles
Neighborhood Action
National Capital Revitalization Corp.
Planning and Econ. Dev.
Planning, Office of
Police Department
Property Management
Public Advocate
Public Libraries
Public Schools
Public Service Commission
Public Works
Regional Mobility Panel
Sports and Entertainment Com.
Taxi Commission
Telephone Directory
University of DC
Water and Sewer Administration
Youth Rehabilitation Services
Zoning Commission

Issues in DC Politics

Budget issues
DC Flag
DC General, PBC
Gun issues
Health issues
Housing initiatives
Mayor’s mansion
Public Benefit Corporation
Regional Mobility
Reservation 13
Tax Rev Comm
Term limits repeal
Voting rights, statehood
Williams’s Fundraising Scandals


Appleseed Center
Cardozo Shaw Neigh.Assoc.
Committee of 100
Fed of Citizens Assocs
League of Women Voters
Parents United
Shaw Coalition



What Is DCWatch?

themail archives

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 responders.

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 `h, 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 process.

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.

Back to top of page

Send mail with questions or comments to webmaster@dcwatch.com
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)