The All-Seeing Eyes of Fullerton

Over the past several years you may have noticed the increasingly prolific nature of government-sponsored surveillance cameras throughout the public areas in Fullerton. One Fullerton resident counted over 122 police and traffic cameras spread throughout the city.

These unblinking eyes are given the authority to record us as we lawfully participate in the everyday life of Fullerton citizens. Some of them issue $400 citations when we break the law. Others merely record our presence and store it on disk at the police station, to be reviewed later if we are accused of a crime. Sometimes the cameras are viewed in real time by Fullerton’s finest — other times they are viewed by private citizens working for a smooth-talking surveillance system vendor.

Most of us do appreciate the hard work that Fullerton Police do to find and detain those who cause us harm. However, we must remember that all government power is ultimately derived from the threat of force — necessitating our extreme caution in creation of new powers and rules. As free citizens, it is our responsibility to maintain strong oversight over those who we allow to govern us. We must keep a wary eye on technologies that enable the quiet expansion of power over us, and we should thoughtfully devise rules and policies regarding their use to protect us from individual or systemic abuses of such power.

Some may sneer at our natural tendency to question the continued spawning of such devices. After all – what do we have to hide? Don’t we trust our law enforcement agencies? We all know individual Fullerton officers who we personally trust. Shouldn’t we trust all of them?

Isn’t this just paranoia? The recent case of Orange County Sheriffs Department’s abusive surveillance of the OC Board of Supervisors is strong justification for our concern. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens stands accused of allowing her deputies to use surveillance cameras to zoom in on the notes, emails and text messages of political opponents and then unlawfully denying public records requests to release the tapes to the public.

Sheriff Hutchens has given us a perfect example of what can happen when we are too cavalier about allowing new technology to expand the presence of law enforcement into our lives. The Board has since voted to remove the Sheriffs’ contract to provide security over the boardroom, but as citizens, it’s not always that easy to protect ourselves once we have allowed an agency to go too far.

I urge the City of Fullerton and the Fullerton Police Department to carefully consider the ramifications of the continued proliferation of surveillance cameras throughout Fullerton. As free and law-abiding people, we do not need or deserve to be monitored whenever we leave our homes.

17 Replies to “The All-Seeing Eyes of Fullerton”

  1. the problem isnt surveillance cameras in public areas, but police using this technology to spy on people.since these cameras keep people honest

  2. The facts are wrong! The data is stored for a short period of time, and is only viewed as a result of a major crime. If you were an unfortunate victim of one of these crimes, you would be thankful when the police are able to ID the bad guy as a result of a camera. The police are also responsible to exonerate the innocent, which the cameras have been able to do. Let’s not live our lives in a paranoid state. If you’re not doing anything wrong, no one wants to see you on some little monitor.

  3. You are incorrect. The police have no duty to exonerate the innocent – The Supreme Court has even ruled that the local police do not even have a duty to protect individuals. Look it up if you dont believe it.

    The primary job of Law Enforcement is to collect evidence of crimes for the prosecutor of their juristidciton. That’s it.

    And I’d be careful about saying “If you’re not doing anything wrong…” because it’s currently impossible to live in this society, with it’s unknown quantity of federal, state, and local laws on the books, to not break any laws.

  4. Ah, the old “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” shtick. Did the Board of Supervisors have something to hide? Because they certainly had something to fear. Hutchens was even forced to apologized for violating their privacy.

    Also, please specify which facts were wrong. When the cameras were installed, the spec called for the data to be held for at least 10 days. That’s long enough for anyone to submit a public records request for the data, which means that any bit of tape could be reviewed by anyone. It’s disingenuous to imply that nobody can see the recordings unless there is a major crime.

  5. I stop for red lights, and I walk around the Downtown Fullerton area with complete comfort.

    God has a camera on my heart and mind at all times. I’m more concerned about letting Him down then the FPD.

    You paranoid fools have no idea. Sleep tight.

  6. I’m assuming 1st hand is a cop. As with the public school teachers, most are blind to the reality of their own world. They have been convinced by society that if they are involved, it must be good. Unfortunately the vast majority of Americans agree. I fear for what it will take to even semi-permanently modify our nation’s perspective. Planes crashing into buildings changed Americans for about a quarter. It’s more astounding in public education. Being privy to the private conversations between teachers with regard to Fullerton’s recent layoff notices, it’s just astounding how childlike teachers are. My job? My money? Why won’t they tell us what’s going on? Why are they keeping the truth from us? It’s like they don’t have access to newspapers or the internet. Incidentally, Hilda Sugarman and Ellen Ballard are pressing hard for a parcel tax. Not that I’m terribly concerned about it passing. It will waste 6 figures of the district’s money in the effort though.

  7. There was a time when these cameras did not concern me because I too believed that since I didn’t participate in illegal activities I had nothing to worry about. That has all changed after seeing first-hand the lengths that Sheriff Hutchens and her staff will go to intimidate and harass law-abiding citizens. When surveillance cameras are used for political purposes to spy on law-abiding citizens participating in a law-abiding activity, it is time for us all to fear them.

  8. sheriff hutchens is from LA sheriff’s where the mentality is us(cops) versus ghetto so anything goes including violation of privacy without cause. she needs to trot back to LA

  9. Another thing is that those cameras are most likely donated, issued & installed with federal money/grant not state or city. This is all in the name of your “safety”! Never trust the government to keep you safe, the cameras are so they can keep an eye on us so we don’t get out of line and wake up and revolt.

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