January 29, 2009 in Washington Voices

Cheney focuses on camera

Council will decide on Feb. 10
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Cheney City Council will vote at the next meeting to decide if the city will install a camera on First and College Streets.

The Cheney Police Department has received a $69,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to install the camera and the software needed to run it.

During the public hearing held Tuesday, Chief Jeff Sale told the council the Ninth Circuit Court deemed there is no expectation of privacy in public places. He said the camera will be effective in catching those who commit crimes in the area, but didn’t have much of an impact on crimes involving drugs and alcohol.

Baltimore, Newark, N.J., St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla., Tacoma, Post Falls and Liberty Lake are a few cities that have installed cameras in high-crime areas, and Sale presented a video of a newscast from Baltimore about a potential rape that was thwarted by police through use of the cameras.

“The cameras are there to assist and complement what we do,” Sale said.

He said that crime in the area is rising. During late-night hours, felony crimes, misdemeanors and assaults have increased.

“It is completely different down there from 10 o’clock at night to three o’clock in the morning,” Sale said. “What you see down there during your normal course of business is not what is down there at three in the morning.”

Resident Tom Davis told the council he thinks the city should take advantage of any opportunity to increase security.

Graeme Webster, another Cheney resident, told the council that he was also in favor of the cameras and didn’t feel that people should worry about privacy in a public place.

“I can’t see turning down $69,000,” he told the council.

Councilmember Curt Huff said he talked to six people about the camera issue. Four of them were strongly for it and two of whom were strongly against it.

Another councilmember, Mike McKeehan, said he talked to three people who were all opposed to the idea. Tom Trulove said he talked to residents as well.

“They feel it’s an infringement on their civil liberties,” Trulove said. “They don’t want to be spied on by the government.”

Daniel Wilson, the student activities representative of the Associated Students of Eastern Washington University, approached the council and said he didn’t feel the students and the Greek community at the school had been informed of the cameras. He said he was strongly opposed to the cameras because of the lack of communication between the city and the school.

Councilmember Teresa Overhauser asked Wilson for his e-mail address and promised to send him the information about the cameras and the council as a whole invited him back to the next council meeting when they would vote on and discuss the issue again.

In other council news, Mayor Allan Gainer announced that Todd Ableman has been hired as the new director of Public Works. Ableman has been serving as the interim director since Don MacDonald resigned from the position last August.

“Todd Ableman earned his stripes on this one,” Gainer said.

City Administrator Arlene Fisher updated the council about expenses incurred during the recent snowstorm.

She said the entire cost to the city was $140,776 and hopes to receive some funding from FEMA to help recoup some of the cost to the city.

She also addressed some expenses for meals for the street crews during the storm.

She said that employees were working 12-hour shifts in large, slow moving vehicles and it was hard for them to drive back to the office for breaks. She said a ruling by the attorney general of the state several years ago made an expense like that legitimate.

“It’s considered an unusual expense, but an allowable expense,” Fisher said.

Contact staff writer Lisa Leinberger at 459-5449 or by e-mail at lisal@spokesman.com.


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