To ensure the effective use of the CCTV system and to guard against possible abuse, the Metropolitan Police Department has developed a comprehensive General Order that establishes policies and procedures on the use of the CCTV system. In November 2002, the DC Council approved regulations on the MPDC’s use of CCTV (Title 24 DCMR, Chapter 25). As a result, the District’s CCTV system is the most tightly regulated system of its kind in the nation, and it meets the criminal justice video surveillance guidelines adopted by the American Bar Association.
Highlights of CCTV system policies and procedures include the following:
- Use of the CCTV system is event-driven. The system is not activated on a continuous basis, but is used only during major events or emergencies. The CCTV system can be activated only upon authorization of the Chief of Police or his designee.
- An MPDC official at the rank of lieutenant or above will supervise and monitor all CCTV activities. Should the MPDC’s emergency response level become "Orange" or higher, an assistant chief will assume supervisory responsibilities. All system operators must certify that they understand the policies and procedures governing CCTV usage.
- Video images are recorded only upon the authorization of the Chief of Police. Generally, video recordings will be indexed and maintained by the MPDC for a maximum of 90 calendar days. If any recordings contain evidence of criminal activity or an occurrence that may subject the MPDC to civil liability, the recordings will be maintained until final disposition of the case.
- CCTV cameras are not equipped with audio overhear capabilities, and the MPDC will not use any type of audio system in conjunction with the CCTV network unless appropriate court orders are obtained.
- Operators of the CCTV will not target or track individuals arbitrarily or based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or other classifications protected by law.
- The CCTV system is used to observe locations that are in public view where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. CCTV cameras will not focus on hand bills, flyers or other materials distributed or carried pursuant to the First Amendment.
- Unauthorized use or misuse of the CCTV system will result in disciplinary action.
- The MPDC notifies the public about the capabilities and uses of the CCTV system. Signs have been posted indicating where the permanent cameras are deployed. The Department provides regular reports on CCTV usage and will seek public comment on any proposed expansion of the network.