Secret police cameras catch heat, not crime


Privacy - Gresham cops protest a hidden lens aimed at nabbing a harassment suspect


Thursday, March 29, 2007


The Oregonian


Gresham police Sgt. Teddi Anderson opened her top desk drawer and found a one-word insult written on a torn piece of paper. An hour later, she stepped away from the office while in the middle of composing an e-mail. When she returned, she said, the same sexist insult was typed at the end of her unfinished sentence.


Anderson's superiors installed a hidden camera over her desk after the Jan. 24 incident, and for two weeks it taped everything that happened.


The secret investigation ended without a suspect, but a few weeks later some employees were shocked when an office mate looked up and spotted the lens in the ceiling. The revelation of the secret taping sparked a formal union grievance and added to a long national debate over privacy rights in the workplace.


Video surveillance of employees has grown more common and intrusive as equipment has become smaller, cheaper and easier to use, said Jeremy Gruber, legal director of the National Workrights Institute based in Princeton, N.J. About 51 percent of employers surveyed by the American Management Association in 2005 reported using video monitoring to counter theft or violence.