Pakistan News

Leakage of CCTV camera footage to news channels irks police top brass

Leakage of CCTV camera footage to news channels irks police top brass

KARACHI: The police authorities have shown “serious concern and anger” over the leakage of footage to news channels from closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed across the city after every serious or high-profile incident that, on the one hand, affected investigations and, on the other, facilitated “criminal elements” to counter the video surveillance system, it emerged here on Wednesday.

The concern from the police authorities emerged at a recent meeting held in the central police office, where senior officers summoned the management of a private company which operates the video surveillance system from its command and control centres and also officials of the units tasked with the job.

“From police, the SSU (special security unit) looks after the Sindh police video surveillance system,” said an official citing details of the recent meeting presided over by the DIG-IT of the Sindh police. “The private company [coordinates] with SSU officials for smooth operation and to run the system in line with the defined SOP [standard operating procedure]. However, the police authorities believe that in recent incidents, it has been observed that footage of those incidents [has been] leaked to the media, which is not appropriate by any means.”

To convey those concerns and block the leak of footage, he said, police high-ups called the meeting with officials from both sides — the private company and the SSU. He said the private company management in fact showed their “helplessness” when it was asked about the leakage of the footage to the media by their staff members.

“Their [management of private company] argument was quite convincing,” said another official who attended the meeting. “They were right to say that the staff and management of the company cannot even think of helping any individual by leaking footage. They have their own control system, which never allows such leakages. The footage is leaked solely by police officials who are at the helm of affairs.”

The Sindh police in 2010 launched the ‘video surveillance system’ for Karachi with an initial Rs500 million estimated cost. The project was further expanded last year when the law-enforcement agency announced another Rs846m project to install more surveillance cameras at important locations in the city in addition to the 1,000 cameras to meet the growing security challenges and help make the ongoing ‘targeted operation’ a success.

Apart from its own surveillance system, the Karachi police supervise the KMC’s command and control centre at the Civic Centre after the Sindh government in September 2013 replaced the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) with the law-enforcement agency, in a major move a day after the federal government had announced the launch of the Rangers-led targeted operation in the city.

Leakage of the CCTV footage to the media, sources maintain, is not a new phenomenon but it has been strongly felt recently by the police authorities after the change of command in the institution at the highest level. After the meeting, it was highly likely that a new set of SOPs would be formed to prevent such leakages, said the police official.

“It is not the first time that the police authorities have shown their displeasure and annoyance over any practice,” he added. “The fact is that hardly any policy is maintained for a long term. So we have planned that there would be no leakages of CCTV footage to news channels without any prior nod from high-ups.”

Published in Dawn December 29th, 2016

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