The Dayton City Commission has given the police department the green light to use technology that will allow officers to access live and recorded video from privately owned security cameras.
The commission voted 3 to 2 Wednesday to allow the use of the technology after an occasionally contentious, two-hour meeting in which commissioners clashed and had some heated exchanges with police officials.
Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. and Commissioners Chris Shaw and Matt Joseph voted in favor of the police department’s request to use Fusus video aggregation technology, while Commissioners Darryl Fairchild and Shenise Turner-Sloss voted against the move.
The vote illustrates a continuing 3-2 split on the commission on multiple policy issues.
Commissioners Turner-Sloss and Fairchild said they would have supported the use of Fusus technology on a trial basis, but they said they did not want to approve the use beyond a pilot program.
Dayton police plan to use the technology downtown during a pilot program that is expected to last until the end of June. The pilot program is being paid for by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Turner-Sloss and Fairchild said the whole point of the pilot program is to see how well the technology works and what impact if might have on the community.
“I mean this is what the pilot is for, right, to check for the effectiveness,” Fairchild said.
Commissioners Shaw and Joseph and Mayor Mims said the city will have plenty of opportunities to evaluate the Fusus system and the commission can always decide not to approve funding for it if members feel it is problematic or does not meet expectations.
“We can’t know that without going through a pilot ... and it’s better when it is paid for by somebody else,” Shaw said. “This is a gift — as we go down this road and it doesn’t work out, if we find some kind of bias that’s demonstrated, then we can tweak that.”
Fusus will allow the police department to access live streaming video and recorded footage from cameras that belong to businesses and other private owners.
The program is entirely voluntary and camera owners can dictate under what circumstances police can access their video and devices, said Dayton police Major Paul Saunders.
Police already ask for and receive video footage all the time from people who own private security cameras, and the Fusus system will simply speed up and streamline that process, he said.
Camera owners can give police access to their live streams on a conditional basis, where they set the terms, Saunders said.
Police also plan to create a Fusus camera registry. Camera owners who participate notify police that they have private security cameras and provide their locations and their contact info so officers can more easily reach out when incidents occur and they are seeking video evidence, police said.
Multiple people who spoke in favor of the Fusus technology said the security cameras police will be able to access are located in public spaces where people should not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
“I think it is a very good idea both as a deterrent and a way to identify perpetrators and crime more quickly and efficiently than the means currently used,” said Lindy McDonough, president of the Hillview Neighborhood Association. “I don’t see privacy as an issue since many institutions, businesses and private citizens already use surveillance systems for their own properties.”
Accessing live video feeds will let police know what kinds of situations officers will face before they respond to incidents and calls for service, Saunders said.
“It’s not brain surgery, it’s not rocket science, it is potentially life-saving and it has the potential to revolutionize our response,” Saunders said.
But some community members said the city and police department have not imposed meaningful safeguards to ensure that police will not misuse how and when they access live and recorded video.
Destiny Brown, a community organizer and a member of the Coalition on Public Protection, said she fears Fusus technology could contribute to disparities and overpolicing.
She said police produced an impact report that failed to contain any information about the potential adverse impact of Fusus and it also did not include clearly defined parameters about how the technology can be used.
Commissioner Fairchild said he is concerned that police want to be able to access live video anytime, based on almost any kind of “triggering” incident.
He said he thinks there should be limits on the use.
Police officials said it’s always better to know what officers are going to find and encounter at a scene before they respond.
“We are in one of the most violent cities in the United States of America,” said Dayton police Chief Kamran Afzal. “We don’t know what we’re walking (into) half the time.”
He said, “The threshold is someone is calling for help.”
Other issues raised
Some community members also said the police department failed to meet the requirements of the city’s surveillance technology ordinance, which lays out the steps police must take before new law enforcement technology can be implemented.
They said police under the ordinance are required to provide estimates of what the system could cost to implement in the city.
Major Saunders said the pilot program has zero cost because the Attorney General is paying for it. The Attorney General’s Office says a multi-jurisdictional pilot program involving Dayton, Trotwood, Miamisburg, West Carrollton and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is costing about $250,000.
Saunders said said it’s impossible to give a cost estimate when so many details remain unknown, like what model would be adopted, how many partners would participate and what kinds of outside funding might be available, like grants.
Saunders said he thinks police complied with the requirements of the city ordinance.
Saunders said the police department is supposed to include information about potential adverse impacts of new technology but there really isn’t any evidence that these systems have adverse impacts because it is just video sharing that already goes on.
He also said police documented every question and concern that community members raised at more than a dozen public information meetings where the technology was discussed, including any comments about potential adverse impacts.
Commissioner Matt Joseph said he thinks city leaders should review the surveillance technology ordinance to make sure it is providing the correct guidance to police when it comes to explaining potential adverse impacts.
“I think we need to be more detailed about what we’re asking for,” he said.
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