Beefing up their camera network before of September's Democratic National Convention, Charlotte police have access to more than 500 surveillance cameras perched on traffic lights, mounted on buildings, and focused on sensitive areas across the city, says the Charlotte Observer. What they don't have is a rule book giving officers clear guidance on how best to use their expanding power to watch streets and residents. A team of police officers, technicians, and lawyers is writing it now, even as department leaders make plans to move the cameras to new corridors and crime-plagued communities.
Civil liberties and civil rights activists worry the cameras will invade the privacy of law-abiding residents and raise the risk of racial profiling in high-crime areas. Civil-rights lawyer James Ferguson said, “More likely than not, they will be placed in areas that are labeled high-crime areas, and that becomes a surrogate for racial minority areas.” Police say they have no plans to profile people by race or invade their privacy. They say the cameras simply expand their reach. Several areas of town can be monitored simultaneously by an officer at a computer terminal, said Deputy Chief Harold Medlock. The cameras can be used to determine where crime is happening and help police leaders more efficiently position officers on duty.