Cleveland police are seeking access to home security camera footage to help with investigations

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The Cleveland City Council Safety Committee on Wednesday approved a proposal to allow Cleveland police to request access to home security cameras.

If approved, police could request footage from cameras installed in private residences — such as Ring doorbell cameras — by any security company in Cleveland.

Deputy Chief Harold Pretel told the council that the rules for accessing footage are based on agreements between security companies and their clients.

“They may ask you for the desired protocol for streaming your footage,” Pretel said. “If the police intervene in an area, do you want to be contacted every time? And you say, ‘Well, yeah, they’re looking for information about that robbery last night, of course give it to them.’ Or do you just want to give as a blanket yes, ‘If I have it on my system, you’re free to give it to the police.’

The city has no rules on how long Cleveland Police can store the footage, what they can use it for after they have it, or how long the footage they can request from the security company.

After Amazon-owned Ring came under fire for its Neighbors by Ring program, the company changed its rules so law enforcement can only request videos from camera owners through a public post on the Neighbors app. Ring also tightened disclosure rules — the message had to include an investigator’s contact information and a case number — and limited the amount of time the request could cover.

Cleveland passed an order last year to join the Neighbors by Ring program but, according to the company’s website, never joined.

The proposal met with little pushback from council members on Wednesday.

Ward 17 Councilor Charles Slife said it would be easier than trying to fill departmental staffing shortages.

“It’s a way for us to build our public safety presence in a way that’s really more cost effective and easier than those 200 vacancies that we talked about.”

In the recently passed 2022 budget, the Cleveland Police Division received money for 1,640 uniformed officers. This would require the hiring of over 200 new officers.

In addition to the annual challenge of recruiting enough new recruits to send to the academy, the department faces increased scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice and police scrutiny for hiring practices. who have not met the requirements of the Consent Decree.

The city has increasingly turned to expanded oversight to try to close the gap.

Cleveland plans to use $4.5 million in coronavirus relief funds to expand a city-owned camera system attached to streetlights. Council recently approved new automated license plate readers and the purchase of two drones. And the city is nearing the end of a two-year pilot program testing an audio surveillance system called ShotSpotter that detects gunshots.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Deputy Chief Pretel said the department and county attorney’s office were working on a mapping project that would compile all public and private surveillance cameras and make their locations available to law enforcement. ‘order.

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