Seattle Police Cameras – The Stranger joins the fight!

It seems a somewhat credible news source finally agrees with me on the Seattle Police Department Port Security Grant Network. The Stranger front page story this week is investigating the wireless mesh network! I had no connection with The Stranger story, but I am an obscure blogger investigating the wireless mesh. I made my first request to the Seattle Police Department in February 2013. Yes, a full 10 months ago. I didn’t ask them to answer any questions, I just asked for the records. I made the following request:

Pursuant to RCW Ch. 42.56 (Public Records Act), I hereby request the following records:

The maps, purchase orders, maintenance contracts, technical specifications, usage policies, access procedures, data retention policies, installation instructions, device configurations, interconnect details, and other public records requests for the wireless mesh network installed in the second half of 2012.

Obviously these are all things they should have right? I’ve been fighting with the police department for months, and the best I’ve gotten is a picture of a crumpled up printout of a low resolution map of the system. You’d think there would be source files for that picture right? Sure, in July I did get a CD that contained a scan of a clean version of the paper. Yay!

Unfortunately I was in the middle of a Port Commission race at the time, and couldn’t do anything about it. Luckily I have some more time now. I’ve included the CD with this post, and I’ll be making some more requests. This time to the IT department. (Hint: Don’t include the file names on your printout. I can just request it from the file server now!)

I also got some interesting records from the Seattle Department of IT showing the network was powered up in late December!

There is clearly a coverup going on here, but the police aren’t going to talk about it. So I went to the IT and Finance people. Well, I got back quite a few interesting records from them! For example, this project included $9795.19 RADIUS server. On what planet does a RADIUS server cost that much? It turns out to be a $1000 dell server running FreeRADIUS. Even that is overkill.

Another interesting feature, is the surveillance. There are already 36 high-res pan tilt zoom cameras on this network, and there is enough bandwidth for them to add over 1600 more. In addition, they significantly overpaid for the cameras by not properly following their own bidding process rules.

There are real problems with this project and most of them are not related to surveillance. Even when it is just a small blogger investigating, it is the Seattle Police Department’s responsibility under Washington state law to turn over copies of records requested. Hopefully The Stranger article will bring enough attention to this problem to encourage the Police department to do the right thing, obey the law, and release the records to anyone who asks for them.