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Victory! Cambridge city council votes to require public process before DHS surveillance cameras can be activated


Last night in Cambridge, the city government approved an order requiring that the city council vote to approve any and all police use of Department of Homeland Security funded surveillance cameras. The cameras, installed in 2009 over the opposition of the city council's unanimous order, have been dormant for years. But in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, police officials published a draft surveillance camera policy, suggesting that they want to start using them. Community members, the city council, and the ACLU mobilized to ensure that a democratic process — not secretive, backroom policymaking — oversaw the conversation about enhanced government monitoring of public streets.

The full text of the newly issued order is below. Click here to read the ACLU's testimony on the Cambridge Police Department's draft surveillance camera policy.

October 7, 2013
WHEREAS:   Three years ago, in February 2009, the City Council adopted a unanimous order (O-18) requesting the City Manager to ensure that eight surveillance cameras funded by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) were not installed in Cambridge; and
WHEREAS:   Six such cameras have been installed in Cambridge, but remain un-activated; and
WHEREAS:   The Cambridge Police Department has promulgated a draft policy contemplating the activation of the DHS cameras and the installation and activation of other surveillance cameras throughout Cambridge; and
WHEREAS:   Councillor Kelley has held six public meetings allowing members of the community to comment on the draft policy; and
WHEREAS:   The City Manager and the Mayor held a presentation on the draft policy September 26th, which was attended by more than 50 community members, who largely testified in opposition to the installation and activation of surveillance cameras in Cambridge; and
WHEREAS:   In statements made at the September 26th presentation, the City Manager and the Police Commissioner were forthright in their desire to conduct any policy implementation according to the principles of transparency and democracy, and, in so doing, to respond and adhere to the wishes and concerns of the people of Cambridge and their City Council; now therefore be it
ORDERED:    That the City Manager, the Police Commissioner and their designees shall not (1) activate or cause to be activated any security cameras, surveillance cameras, or any other video or audio recording, watching or listening devices (any “Cameras”); or (2) implement any policy relating to such Cameras; unless in either case there shall be held a prior affirmative vote of the majority of the City Council specifically authorizing the contemplated activation or implementation; and be it further
ORDERED:    That the City Manager be and hereby requested to report back to the City Council regarding this request.

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