Buggy Security Cameras Could Be Hindering Investigation Into Ambush on Dallas Police
Poor resolution may have caused some of the more than 90 downtown security cameras to have missed the deadly shooting on July 7.
DALLAS – Technical issues with a municipal surveillance system may have prevented security cameras from capturing the shooting that took the lives of five police officers and wounded seven others in downtown Dallas.
Still to be explained by city officials is whether or not the investigation of the ambush, during which two civilians were also injured, is benefiting from the video surveillance system, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez told the newspaper there may have been “issues” – possibly involving poor resolution – with some of the 90 downtown cameras on the night of July 7 when Micah Johnson carried out his attack on police.
“I have heard they are having problems getting footage, but I am not sure to what extent or if it was a clarity issue,” Gonzalez told the newspaper. “That is something they’re obviously going to be looking into and getting fixed as we have in the past.”
The Saturday morning following the shootings, technicians in bucket trucks were seen in the downtown area tinkering with some of the cameras, according to the newspaper. Dallas CIO Bill Finch said this week that the truck was there at the request of Dallas police “to adjust the focus of a particular camera in preparation for a march that was planned on Sunday the 10th, which according to the route information would cross [North Griffin Street] on the way to the Continental Pedestrian Bridge.”
When told technicians could be seen working on multiple sites, Finch later upped the number to “a couple of cameras,” the newspaper reported. Finch, who oversees the city’s Communications and Information Services, said his department has not received “any feedback about video issues from DPD.” But he added a caveat.
“Of course there could be places in the video that the quality is poor,” he said. “We have seen this when a bright light hits the camera lens, which distorts the image quality.”
Officials with the Dallas Police Department who watch the surveillance cameras were not immediately available for comment. Local and federal officials are using that footage as part of their investigation into the shooting. Investigators also have access to hundreds of hours of dash-cam and body-cam video taken July 7, as well as videos captured by civilians during and immediately after the shooting.
The downtown cameras, which were installed about nine years ago, cost around $1 million, and were funded by Safer Dallas Better Dallas, Downtown Dallas Inc. and the Meadows Foundation, according to the newspaper. The footage is streamed wirelessly to a room in the basement of Dallas City Hall, where it is monitored by civilians and officers on light duty.
Problems with the downtown security cameras are not uncommon, John Crawford, chairman of Downtown Dallas Inc., told the newspaper. He said a deputy chief involved with the camera program told Downtown Dallas Inc. recently that at any given time, 80% percent of the 400 or so cameras scattered throughout the city are functioning properly.
“Because of technology and manpower, you’re never going to have 100% up at all times,” Crawford said. “Eighty percent is reasonable.”
City Councilman Philip Kingston, whose district includes downtown, told the newspaper he’s “very concerned” about the state of the surveillance cameras.
“Do we have the wrong equipment? Is it installed improperly? We’ve used a ton – a ton – of private dollars on these,” he said. “There are downtown and public safety stakeholders who have contributed huge sums of money for the installation and maintenance of these cameras, and we need to know if that money was wasted.”
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