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What Is DCWatch?
Title: Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV)
Effective Date: DRAFT 04/04/02
VI. Procedural Guidelines
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) recognizes that improvement
and changes in technology can greatly enhance law enforcement efforts. The
Department has utilized this method of crime prevention technology by
strategic placement of closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) in the
District of Columbia.
Past U.S. Supreme Court and lower court decisions strongly suggest that
this type of police monitoring is a valid exercise of a government's
police powers. Under current interpretations of the First and Fourth
Amendment, CCTV appears to represent a valid use of the state's power to
protect its citizens. It does not intrude upon an individual's sphere of
privacy, but rather records events occurring in public space for which
individuals do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
In the case of Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), the
court held that the Fourth Amendment provides constitutional protection to
those areas in which a person reasonably expects privacy. MPD believes the
CCTV program can withstand legal scrutiny provided the cameras are focused
on public areas and the images obtained are not used or disseminated
improperly. Safeguards will ensure that the technology is not
Title 1 of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C.
Section 2510) limits the ability of law enforcement to execute wiretaps.
Under Title 1, police departments must obtain a warrant prior to secretly
intercepting some communications.
In contrast, silent video — as is used by the MPD (involving
no recording of sounds) — on public streets does not have to comport
with Title 1 because the Act concerns itself only with devices that
capture audio signals.
MPD has employed an internal network of CCTV within the Synchronized
Operations Command Complex (SOCC) that are highly secured and protected
against unauthorized access. MPD shall comply with all local, federal and
case law applicable to the use of surveillance cameras in public
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The policy of MPD is to utilized CCTV in its mission to safeguard the
District of Columbia. The CCTV systems represent a valid use of a
government's power to protect its citizens and will be activated as needed
during special events in which there is a potential threat to public
safety, critical incidents, heightened states of alert or for traffic
control. MPD's CCTV systems are intended to augment the District's efforts
to prevent crime and fear of crime in the District of Columbia. The
technology neither will be used to replace current policing techniques nor
operated where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. As the
Department explores the use of other advanced technologies, MPD shall
engage in consultation with public and private entities during the course
of development and implementation. If any CCTV systems are mounted in
residential areas, public notice will be given with the exception of those
utilized pursuant to a court order. Cameras may be utilized only in those
residential areas experiencing crime occurring on public space.
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When used in this directive, the following terms shall have the
- Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras — Any live video link
that is electronically received into the SOCC.
- External Video Feeds — Any video link received in the SOCC on a
live basis from outsides sources to include other law enforcement
agencies, Departments of Transportation, METRO, D.C. Public Schools,
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- Authorization of Use of CCTV Cameras:
- Members of the Department shall receive authorization from the
Chief of Police, or his designee, prior to utilizing the CCTV
and/or conducting recordings.
- An official of the rank of Lieutenant or above shall supervise
and monitor CCTV activities conducted in the SOCC. As the threat
level increases above Threat Level One, an Assistant Chief shall
assume these responsibilities.
- All recorded CCTV footage shall be maintained and secured by the
official in command of the SOCC.
- MPD shall not use audio in conjunction with the CCTV unless
appropriate court orders are obtained.
- Unauthorized use or misuse of the cameras will result in
- Operators of the CCTV systems shall not target/observe
individuals arbitrarily or based on race, gender, ethnicity,
sexual orientation, disability or other classifications protected
- CCTV systems shall be used to observe locations that are in
public view and where there is no reasonable expectation of
- CCTV will not focus on hand bills, fliers, etc., being
distributed or carried pursuant to First Amendment Rights.
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- The objectives of the CCTV program are to prevent crime and provide
increased security and public safety. Video images are actively
monitored for crime prevention, observation, evidentiary and traffic
- Use of the CCTV systems is incident driven; the system is not
routinely monitored on a continuous basis. SOCC personnel will enter
incident information into the running resume of the daily SOCC report,
as well as, the disposition of the incident.
- Recording of video images shall commence only upon authorization of
the Chief of Police or his designee.
- A law enforcement officer will be dispatched to any area in which an
incident is observed.
- Video recordings of unusual incidents and planned events shall
be indexed, stored and maintained for 72 hours after which time
they may be recorded over.
- Video recordings that contain evidence of criminal activity or
capture an occurrence that may subject the Department to civil
liability shall be maintained until the final case disposition.
The MPD shall be responsible for the safekeeping, maintenance and
servicing of MPD equipment (i.e. cameras, cable, monitors, recorders,
- Public Notification
- MPD will post on the departmental website information pertaining
to the general capabilities of CCTV systems, their locations and
their use in departmental operations.
- If utilized in residential areas, MPD will post signage
indicating the use of CCTV systems in those areas with the
exception of those utilized pursuant to a court order.
The Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct periodic audits
at least quarterly to ensure compliance with this directive.
Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police