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Charlottesville Aims Hidden Cameras On Own Workers

Hawes Spencer

Charlottesville Police have planted as many as a dozen hidden cameras over the past few years – not to watch for criminals but to keep an eye on city employees.


When city police identified a suspect in the disappearance of  University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, Chief Tim Longo gave credit to security cameras that keep watch on Charlottesville’s downtown mall, and he recently convinced City Council to consider adding more video surveillance. Now, we've learned that Longo approved training secret cameras on city workers.??

"I was rather shocked that it happened. During my tenure as fire chief for 34 years I never knew of anything like this to happen."??

That's former Fire Chief Julian Taliaferro, upset by the surveillance and by the fact that one of his former employees was fired shortly after finding the hidden camera tucked into an air vent in his office.??

"I think it's a trust-breaker."??

And he’s not the only one who’s upset. John Whitehead is founder of the Rutherford Institute, a group committed to protecting civil liberties.  

"Putting surveillance cameras on people and watching them as if they were chickens in a cage or ants or insects is really egregious."??

Whitehead says police shouldn't put a camera in any room where there's a reasonable expectation of privacy-- except in rare cases.??

"If someone's committing an egregious crime, something that we would all be appalled at, but in this particular case I don't see that."

??In the case at hand, testimony indicated that the camera went in after a supervisor found a liquor bottle in the employee's desk.  City spokesperson Miriam Dickler says the City abides by all local, state, and federal laws. Chief Longo refused to comment, and the fired employee is now demanding his job back. 


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