Inspector General Report Finds Flaws in How Chicago's Camera Network is Operated

Chicago is arguably one of the most surveilled cities in the world, but according to a new report by the Office of the Inspector General, the city’s camera network has some major security and operational problems.

The report revealed Chicago manages more than 27,000 surveillance cameras, but Inspector General Joe Ferguson said he found weak controls on who could access those cameras. 

“We don’t know who specifically is using it at what time for what specific purpose,” he said. 

Ferguson cited an incident in 2009, when a city camera was mysteriously maneuvered during a Chicago police operation. 

“It was redirected so it did not capture the actual activity that was at issue,” Ferguson said. “There were allegations of misconduct around that arrest. We had no way of figuring out who was using it and specific adjustments they made.”

Ferguson claims users were accessing the system with group log-ins, making movements hard to track. 

The issue is unacceptable in the eyes of the America Civil Liberties Union.

“How can we have this much money in this far reaching system and still not be able to tell these fundamental things of how this system is used?” said ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka.

The inspector general report also found the Office of Emergency Management & Communications spent nearly $140 million on the camera program in the last decade, with more than $10 million on maintenance alone.

OEMC said in a statement it is making changes to the program.

“OEMC has implemented safeguards to identify and log those accessing the network, as well as the date and time of access,” the statement read.

The department also promised to “strengthen its oversight by developing performance measures that will capture the overall health of the entire camera network and take the appropriate action necessary to ensure optimal performance.”

The Chicago Police Department also said in a statement it is reviewing the inspector general’s findings.

“It's important to ensure an optimal level of accountability and oversight while balancing needs for officers to have access to tools to effectively safeguard our communities,” said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Ferguson said his office will revisit the program in six months to ensure progress is being made.

Contact Us