Phoenix council approves police plan to add security cameras downtown

Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - 5:33pm
Updated: Thursday, December 2, 2021 - 2:40pm

Two Phoenix City Council members who often represent opposing views found common ground Wednesday when they voted against a police proposal. Despite their opposition, the council approved a plan to replace approximately 33 cameras that no longer work properly and install 15 more.

“We’re losing our privacy, we’re losing our individual liberties because of things like this,” said Councilman Sal Diciccio.

Known for supporting police, he called the plan "a bad idea" and said the city will end up regretting it in the future.

Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia, known for criticizing police, worries the cameras will chill free speech, “In a time when we’re being investigated for civil rights potential violations, it is not the right time to move forward.”

Commander Brian Lee told the council, “These cameras also allow us the ability to ensure that the citizens do have their opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights and protect civil rights by not having to worry about officers being physically present at every single location and it gives us the ability to scale back our police presence in uniform capacity.”

As KJZZ News reported last month, the police department said cameras on three sections of the Maricopa County Superior Court building no longer function, and only 25 cameras in the downtown core remain operational. The core is defined as Jackson Street to the I-10 Freeway, Seventh Avenue to Seventh Street.

Councilwoman Ann O’Brien said cameras are especially needed when Phoenix hosts big events, “I would hate to see us potentially lose future events because we aren’t able to protect our folks while they’re here.”

The police department says no audio will be recorded, no facial recognition software will be used, and images will be stored for 30 days. 

In November, Lee told a city subcommittee the police department’s Homeland Security Bureau’s manual covers use and access policies and any allegation of misuse would be investigated by the department’s Professional Standards Bureau.

The first phase is expected to cost $600,000 and the full project more than $1.6 million.

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