The Lexington Urban County Council overwhelmingly approved placing surveillance cameras in Berry Hill Skate Park earlier this year, but three council members went against the flow and stood up for the privacy rights of Lexington residents.
Councilmember Angela Evans raised concerns about privacy early on in the process. She was the only member to oppose the cameras during an Urban County Council General Government and Social Services Committee meeting last November.
“I just inherently have issues when it comes to surveillance,” she said.
Evans went on to say she saw a number of problems with surveillance, and specifically mentioned the possibility of constitutional issues. Her position was not popular. Councilmember Fred Brown spearheaded the push for a Lexington park surveillance camera pilot program. He visibly rolled his eyes at one point as Evans spoke.
Before the full council voted, Councilmember Bill Farmer Jr. also raised concerns about privacy.
Jennifer Mossotti voted against the cameras, but the nature of her opposition remains unclear.
We See You Watching Lexington has reached out to all three council members. Evans responded to our initial email thanking her for defending privacy and voting no.
“It isn’t always easy to go against flow but I felt this issue wouldn’t be fully analyzed and wanted the unintended and constitutional issues to be discussed. Unfortunately, others didn’t feel the same.”
Farmer and Mossotti have not responded to our emails.
After learning that the cameras “see” private property, We See You Lexington sent the following email to Evans and Farmer informing them of our latest findings and encouraging them to sponsor our CCOPS ordinance to ensure Lexington surveillance programs operate with transparency and oversight.
So far, we have received no response. If you are a Lexington resident concerned about privacy, please contact councilmembers Angela Evans, Bill Farmer Jr. and Jennifer Mossotti. Encourage them act on their commitment to privacy and introduce the CCOPS ordinance in the council.
Angela Evans – firstname.lastname@example.org – (859) 258-3212
Bill Famer – email@example.com – (859) 258-3213
Jennifer Mossitti – firstname.lastname@example.org – (859) 258-3215
Councilmembers Evans and Farmer,
I thought this might interest you. I obtained footage from the four cameras at Berry Hill Park through an open records request.
First, it seems problematic to me that apparently anybody can get access to footage for any reason. I also know from my previous open records request that there is no policy in place governing access, retention and sharing of data. They are making it up as they go along.
Second, one of the cameras has a clear view onto private property.
Also, the LPD has 29 mobile surveillance cameras. The department would not release any information relating to their operation.
All of this underscores the need for transparency and oversight when it comes to surveillance in Lexington. Although it appears the LPD has limited surveillance programs at this point, it is imperative to put a framework in place before city departments obtain more intrusive technology.
This is model language developed by the ACLU that creates the kind of oversight necessary: https://weseeyouwatchinglexington.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/surveillance-local-ordinance.pdf
It disturbs me that you two were the only members of the council who expressed any concern about the park cameras. As a resident in the neighborhood, it also frustrates me that no effort was made to notify residents. This is not a good precedent.
Over the last couple of years, I have become intimately acquainted with the dangers of unchecked and unaccountable surveillance. I can cite numerous stories of abuse. We don’t want to see these problems repeated here in Lexington. This ordinance would provide a framework that would allow police to do their jobs, but with proper oversight and transparency.
My hope is that the two of you will possibly team up to introduce this ordinance.
Thank you for your concern about privacy.
Director, We See You Watching Lexington