The Eureka City Council will consider guidelines for City-owned cameras, like this partially installed surveillance pole that was quickly removed in response to public outcry. | Photo: Andrew Goff


Remember that unsightly surveillance pole the City of Eureka erected directly in front of the Old Town gazebo last month? Everyone made a big stink about it because the public was not involved in the decision-making process – the Eureka City Council didn’t even know about it! – and before the day was out the City agreed to take it down and move it to a less prominent location behind the gazebo. 

After all that fuss, City staff decided to develop an overarching policy to clearly define the uses for City-owned security cameras and ensure the uses align with public interest. 

The policy proposal, which will be presented to the council next week, outlines various uses for City-owned security cameras while also ensuring the “protection of civil rights and civil liberties.” For example, security cameras “shall never be used in areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy” or “to intimidate, harass, or discriminate against any individual or group.” 

Under the policy proposal, security cameras will be used to identify, apprehend and prosecute offenders and gather evidence for administrative, civil and criminal investigations. The images and video captured by the devices “shall be used for City business purposes only, and never for personal or non-City uses.” 

One of the most controversial aspects of the surveillance tower, popularly known as a “Lot Cop,” that was partially installed in front of the Old Town gazebo was its ability to collect audio. The policy proposal specifies that any City-owned surveillance camera “will never be used to collect audio data from members of the public.” The policy also notes that the devices will not have facial recognition or license plate reading capability.

Live video footage and archived data captured by City-owned cameras will be “protected from data breach by industry-standard security protocols” and “stored in a secure manner consistent with the City’s document retention protocols.” The data can be accessed by the City Manager and authorized City employees. Data that is not downloaded for City business will be deleted after 90 days.

The proposed Security Camera Use Policy can be found here.

In other business, the City Council will consider the approval of a 2.51 percent rate increase for solid waste collection by Recology Humboldt County. The council will also discuss the fee schedule for the upcoming fiscal year and appoint a delegate and an alternate for the League of California Cities annual conference to be held in Long Beach this September.

The Eureka City Council meets on Tuesday, June 21 at 6 p.m. at Eureka City Hall — 531 K Street. You can also watch the meeting online here.