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Mid-Missouri Civil Liberties Association concerned about surveillance system


The Mid-Missouri Civil Liberties Association sent a letter of concern about the Fusus Real-Time Crime Center proposal Monday, ahead of the Columbia City Council meeting Monday.

The Columbia Police Department asked the council to buy Fusus system, saying it will help them solve crimes.

In a letter sent to Mayor Barbara Buffaloe, Dan Viets -- president of Mid-Missouri Civil Liberties Association -- said the organization has reservations about the proposal.

"While business owners may indeed be required to give their consent before their cameras will be connected to the Fusus system, the businesses’ employees and customers certainly are not required to give permission," Viets said. "It is they whose activities will be placed under surveillance."

Viets said there is no independent assessment of the Fusus system establishing if it reduces crime or significantly aids in the apprehension of criminals.

"We would be very interested in seeing any data from an independent evaluation of the Fusus system," Viets said.

Council members had a lot of questions.

"If the camera is always on would the police be able to take a look at the camera under any circumstance?" Ward 4 Councilman Nick Foster said.

The Fusus software would give police access to public and private surveillance cameras, body-worn cameras, drones and other feeds throughout the city, only with permission. CPD would allegedly have access from businesses in the downtown district and schools, only when a crime has occurred in the area.

Fusus representatives said it would be up to CPD to customize its policies on when cameras could be accessed and every time an officer accesses a camera, that information is logged so it can be addressed.

"We're not here to spy on people we're not here to add additional cameras," Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones said.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Pat Fowler said she was not ready to move forward with the system until others in town were involved.

"To make sure we implement something like this on this scale fairly, I'm going to encourage us to have a convening of folks who can help us focus the policies and protections we need," Fowler said.

Jones said CPD could come up with a policy in 60 days. The council had some concerns with the 60 days saying this is something that shouldn't be rushed.

So far the city has received support from the Columbia Mall, Columbia Public Schools and the Downtown District CID.

"We're always in support of CPD looking for other options of what's out there and other ways to bring safety to the downtown area," Nickie Davis, with the Downtown District CID, said.

It would cost the city $315,000 from the police asset forfeiture fund.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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Leila Mitchell

Leila is a Penn State graduate who started with KMIZ in March 2021. She studied journalism and criminal justice in college.


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