Seattle Police Cameras – Belltown Public Meeting

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.

About half an hour into the meeting, I asked why the mesh network was installed in the downtown core rather than in parts of the city where commercial cell coverage is poor. Assistant Chief McDonagh’s response was that the port grant required the network to be installed in the port and that Downtown Seattle was part of the port. I can see how the waterfront, SoDo, and Harbor Island count as part of the port, but Downtown and West Seattle? That seems like the same logic that resulted in anything within 100 miles of the border being the border.

Phil Mocek asked about the fusion center connection again. McDonagh was somewhat upset by this point. He responded that no written order was required to eliminate that requirement from the contract. This is actually correct, as the contract requires a work order to be issued for each piece to be installed. For the fusion center connection to be installed, a work order would be required. What I find interesting is that the Department of Homeland Security would issue such a large grant without requiring the network to be interfaced into their surveillance program. I guess I’ll need to see a copy of the secret grant conditions.

In my opinion, the most important question was about the change order for the cameras. One of the other city representatives did agree that a written order would be required to change the cameras from the Panasonic model to the Canon model. Apparently that document will be released at some point in the future. The first cameras were installed weeks before I made my public records request. The change order would need to have been written before that time. That fact, along with the map pictured above, will go into my public records appeal.

In conclusion, this meeting only confirmed my suspicions about the network. It was installed because the city won a grant they didn’t really need. How many weeks before the next unnecessary Department of Homeland Security grant comes in?