PHOTO: Police Chief Jeff Hughes explains the public safety benefits of amending the retention schedule for official records at the Brentwood City Commission meeting on Monday, March 11 at City Hall. / Photo by Rachael Long
By RACHAEL LONG
As it exists right now, the public has the ability to watch traffic cameras in Brentwood live from anywhere with internet access. The streams — from about 28 major intersections — are hosted on the city’s website and on public access channel on Comcast, Channel 19.
They have always been real-time cameras, used primarily for traffic monitoring purposes. But now, city leaders believe the cameras would serve law enforcement well if they had the capabilities to record footage.
The idea is that law enforcement officers would have the ability to trace a suspect vehicle through town or gather more information for investigations. City Manager Kirk Bednar mentioned that the cameras could also help with traffic counts and studies which could be helpful in analyzing traffic issues.
Since the city’s policy has always been that the cameras were real-time only, Brentwood leaders had to vote to amend the retention schedule for official records policy to allow the retention of traffic recordings. They did so unanimously Monday night.
Under the new policy, the city would hold the recordings for four days before the cameras would begin recording over old footage.
“We think that’s sufficient for the city’s use, and we believe it’s best to short term the retention of that so that we don’t become a constant request for people to come view the videos,” Bednar said. “Now, if there was an accident within the four-day period and someone contacts us, wants a copy of that video, and we have it, we would certainly provide it.”
Bednar explained that the cameras will utilize memory cards to record the footage rather than being stored over the city’s network.
Police Chief Jeff Hughes said that the cameras are pointed in a specific direction and have a limited angle of view. Not everything that happens in an intersection can be seen by the range of the cameras.
In an attempt to quell potential public concerns about the system, City Commissioner Anne Dunn asked Hughes to elaborate on how the footage would be used.
“This four-day period that things can be kept, that won’t even be reviewed unless there was a criminal activity and you suspect someone may have gone through that intersection, or there was a serious automobile accident and information is needed as to who caused it?” Dunn asked.
“You’re absolutely right,” Hughes said. “And we don’t have the resources to do that, so we would only be pulling that video if we suspected that there would be a lead or a clue that might lead to solving a case with a vehicle coming through the intersection.”
He also confirmed that footage may be reviewed by a traffic investigator in the event of a serious incident.
In other words, unless an officer sees it happen, you won’t get a ticket in the mail every time the light was pink and you went anyway.
“I know we all want to be safe, but there’s a limit to how much government interference people want in their lives, too,” Dunn said. “I want people to know this is not an overreach by government.”
Hughes said the benefit of the recordings is “strictly from an investigative standpoint.”