police cameras

New Somerville police cameras raise questions about civil liberties

by Gina Curreri, Boston.com  |  published on February 16, 2013

Worried about residents’ civil liberties, some aldermen are questioning the Somerville Police Department’s use of new video cameras which mount to light posts or police cars within minutes.

At Thursday evening’s Board of Aldermen meeting, the police chief is expected to present guidelines that the board requested for use of the cameras, and the board will then decide whether to approve them.

“I think we have to be really conscientious here about people’s First Amendment rights to protest, to express their point of view,” said Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz during the last full Board of Aldermen meeting a few weeks ago. The board during that meeting decided to ask police to write guidelines.

“I think if a member of the police department were to set up a quick-deploy camera at a protest, for example, I think that could make people shy away, feel uncomfortable,” Gewirtz said.

No citizens have raised complaints about the cameras, but they also may not be aware of their existence, according to Aldermen. The use of similar cameras by the Boston Police Department stirred controversy in recent years.

The cameras first came to the Aldermen’s attention at a Jan. 10 meeting when they were told about a letter from Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone asking the board to accept the cameras. The aldermen are required to accept or deny all grants and gifts.

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