We know all we need about the Port Security Grant now. At tonight's public meeting, the third and final public meeting on the Port Security Grant, I asked why the system is run by the City of Seattle Police and not the Port of Seattle Police. The answer from Assistant Chief McDonagh: to get to the port, you need to walk down the sidewalk in Seattle. This response is exactly what everyone seems to be afraid of.
Just over a week ago, I sent in a formal appeal regarding the Seattle Police Department's response to my early February request for the records and maps relating to the wireless mesh network. Like clockwork, I received a reply 5 business days later stating that the department was reviewing my request, and that I would receive a response on May 1st, 2013. I really hope this was an April fools joke.
When you have a city as large as Seattle, distributed records are inevitable. But that doesn't mean that public records requests need to turn into a game of finger pointing. The police department first tells me that the Purchasing department has the records I am looking for. The Purchasing department tells me the Police and IT department has the records. Seattle City Light and Department of Transportation are both several days late in responding. When does it end?
I just got home from the police department's meeting at Belltown Community Center, and I have to say, it was an interesting night. The meeting attendance was extremely light, I don't believe anyone was actually there to learn about the issue. The room was about half city employees, one third against the police, and the rest citizens concerned about the cameras. I was expecting the meeting to be controlled by the police department, but instead it was taken over by the anti-police crowd. Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh did a splendid job allowing the group to make fools of themselves.
The Seattle Police Department will be hosting a meeting at the Belltown Community Center, Tuesday, March 19th at 7 PM. I've prepared a flyer with material from the public records returned so far. I'll be bringing a stack with me to distribute. This flyer presents all the relevant information in a concise form, and debunks many of the department talking points.
Right on schedule, my public records request for info on the Wireless Mesh Network is back. What I've seen so far is alarming. I found 36 cameras ordered, with network capacity and infrastructure for over 180. Even better, the camera has a face detection function which, per the manual: "detects the position of human face and the information is sent by XML or video stream."
Every time a controversial issue comes up, one or more of the politicians involved decides to hold a public hearing. In fact, legislative bodies almost exclusively hold public meetings. Has anyone ever thought about why that is? If you said “so the public can provide input” you are likely wrong. Elections aren't won or lost based on public meetings, and that is the only time you can truly provide input. If a politician is holding a public meeting, he or she has already been elected. And if a bureaucrat is holding a public meeting, be even more worried, because bureaucrats aren't elected.