Security Camera Policy
Purchase College, State University of New York

Preamble | Policy | Guidelines | Exceptional Circumstances
Appendix A: : Composition of the Personal Safety Committee
Appendix B: University Police and the Security Camera Audit

I. Preamble

Following several tragedies at college and university campuses, Purchase College has authorized the use of security cameras as part of its crime prevention strategy. These cameras are meant to promote public safety and protect personal and College property. Because Purchase College respects the privacy of the entire College community and the students’ need to feel safe and secure, this policy has been developed by the Campus Life Committee and the Purchase Student Government Association’s Civic Actions Committee to oversee the use of College-authorized security cameras on campus and to ensure that such cameras are used judiciously.

II. Policy

This policy applies to all College personnel in the use of College-authorized security cameras and their video monitoring and recording systems. Security cameras may be installed in situations and placed where the security of either property or persons would be enhanced. Cameras will be limited to uses that do not violate the reasonable expectation of privacy as defined by law. When appropriate, the cameras may be placed campus-wide, inside and outside buildings. Although the physical cameras may be identical, the functions of these cameras fall into three main categories:

  1. Property Protection: Where the main intent is to capture video and store it on a remote device so that, if property is reported stolen or damaged, the video may show the perpetrator. Examples: an unstaffed computer lab, an unstaffed science lab, a parking lot, registrar/bursar’s office counter, and student-accounts safe room.
  2. Personal Safety: Where the main intent is to capture video and store it on a remote device so that, if a person is assaulted, the video may show the perpetrator. Examples: a public walkway, or a parking lot.
  3. Extended Responsibility: Where the main intent is to have the live video stream in one area monitored by a staff member in close proximity to each other. In this case video may or may not be recorded. Example: a computer lab with multiple rooms and only one staff.

This policy does not apply to cameras used for academic purposes. Further, cameras being used for research would be governed by other policies involving human subjects and are therefore excluded from this policy. Requests for installation of security cameras will be made to and approved by the President. At a minimum, signage will be placed and maintained at the entrances to campus stating “This campus uses closed-circuit surveillance technology to monitor public areas. For questions or concerns, contact University Police, Campus Life Committee, or the Civic Actions Committee of the Purchase Student Government Association.”

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III. Guidelines

  1. Information obtained from the cameras shall be used exclusively for law and/or policy enforcement, including, where appropriate, College judicial functions.
  2. Departments requesting security cameras will be required to follow the procedures outlined in this policy. Breaches of this policy may result in disciplinary action, in accordance with applicable employment programs and union agreements.
  3. The places where these cameras may be installed may be restricted-access sites such as a departmental computer lab; however, they are not places where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Cameras will be located so that personal privacy is maximized. No audio should be recorded except in areas where no one is permitted.
  4. Unless the camera is being used for criminal surveillance, as in exceptional circumstances (see section IV), the following places should not be monitored by security cameras:
    • Bathrooms
    • Locker rooms
    • Offices
    • Residential complexes (dormitory, apartment, or temporary)
    • Classrooms not used as a lab
  5. The installation of “dummy” cameras that do not operate on a regular basis should be considered inappropriate.
  6. No cameras should be used as a means of surreptitiously evaluating employee performance.
  7. Unless under exceptional circumstances (see section IV), all video camera installations should be visible.
  8. Unless a camera is being used for criminal surveillance, areas being monitored should be clearly identified with signs indicating that security camera monitoring may be taking place. These signs should be at the main entrances to buildings and in other areas where cameras are located, and they should include a contact number that interested persons can call to receive information regarding the cameras.
  9. For Property Protection and Personal Security cameras, access to video from cameras should be limited to persons authorized by the President, Chief of Police, or designee(s). For Extended Responsibility cameras, the live video can be monitored by the staff person; however, any video recorded must be stored remotely and access limited to the authorized person(s). If video is recorded, it should be retained for a period of at least one week and no longer than 28 days unless it is part of an ongoing investigation. Information that directly affects an investigation will be kept for a period of time determined by the investigating agency. Property Protection cameras requested in locations that may not be utilized for extended periods (such as a storage room) may have images retained longer as determined appropriate by the authorized person(s). In the case of trouble-shooting video equipment, CTS will seek permission from the Chief of Police prior to commencing work on any video system administered by UPD or other departments on campus.
  10. When an incident is reported, the personnel responsible for the area in question may request the President to review the images from the camera. As circumstances require, the President may authorize others to review images. A record log will be kept of all instances of access to and use of recorded material. The Chief of Police will periodically give a report to the College Senate (as requested by that body) regarding the recent uses of security cameras. Nothing in this section is intended to limit the authority of the Chief of Police in law enforcement activities.
  11. Personnel are prohibited from using or disseminating information acquired from College-authorized security cameras except for official purposes. All information and/or observations made in the use of College-authorized security cameras are considered confidential and can only be used for official College and law enforcement business upon the approval of the President, Chief of Police, and designee(s).
  12. All recording or monitoring of activities of individuals or groups by College-authorized security cameras will be conducted in a manner consistent with College policies and state and federal laws, and will never be based on the subjects’ personal characteristics, including gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected characteristics. Furthermore, all recording or monitoring will be conducted in a professional, ethical, and legal manner. All personnel with access to College-authorized security cameras should be trained in the effective, legal, and ethical use of monitoring equipment.
  13. To maintain an informed campus community, the University Police will disseminate to the Personal Safety Committee a list of the locations of all College-authorized security cameras used for the recording or monitoring of public areas. This list will be continually updated and made available to all members of the College community upon request throughout the academic year.
  14. An audit of the location, use, and effectiveness of all College-authorized security cameras used for the recording or monitoring of public areas should be conducted by the Personal Safety Committee on an annual basis and the results of that audit will be disseminated to the College community. Any member of this committee who might have a conflict of interest regarding this audit should recuse him/herself from the process. For more on the Personal Safety Committee and the audit, see Appendices A and B.
  15. Concerns about the possible infringement of this policy should be directed immediately to the President and Vice President for Student Affairs.

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IV. Exceptional Circumstances

  1. Periodically the College experiences patterns of criminal activity, both to persons and property. In an effort to combat repeated criminal acts, either by deterring the activity or apprehending the violators, the College may use security cameras for covert surveillance purposes. No further announcement need be made prior to the actual placement of video equipment. Covert surveillance activity should continue only so long as it is necessary. These cameras and their use should be disclosed in Personal Safety Committee audits only after resolution of the case or cases so as not to interfere with law enforcement activities.
  2. With the exception of Extended Responsibility cameras, College-authorized security cameras are not monitored continuously under normal operating conditions, but may be monitored for legitimate safety and security purposes that include the following: high risk areas, restricted access areas/locations, in response to an alarm, special events, and specific investigations upon authorization from the President, Chief of Police, and designee(s).

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Appendix A: Composition of the Personal Safety Committee

I. Purpose

Whereas it is the understanding of the Campus Life Committee that a Personal Safety Committee exists responsible to the President, and whereas the President has identified the Personal Safety Committee as being appropriate to carry the responsibilities identified in this Security Camera Policy, the following recommendations are proposed regarding the composition of Personal Safety Committee.

II. Recommendations

The Personal Safety Committee, in order to competently and judiciously perform the duties identified in this Security Camera Policy, should follow these recommendations.

  1. The Personal Safety Committee should include representation from the University Police Department. Care should be taken to avoid conflicts of interest, as they pertain to performing this committee’s duties.
  2. The Personal Safety Committee should include representation from Community Standards. Care should be taken to avoid conflicts of interest, as they pertain to performing this committee’s duties.
  3. The Personal Safety Committee should include representation from the Purchase Student Government Association.
  4. The Personal Safety Committee should include representation from the United University Professions.
  5. The Personal Safety Committee should include representation from faculty.
  6. The Personal Safety Committee should include representation from staff.

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Appendix B: University Police and the Security Camera Audit

In order to clarify the responsibilities of University Police personnel granted access to security cameras in the course of their normal work, and to protect the College from liabilities incurred due to incomplete record-keeping, the Campus Life Committee recommends that the following guidelines be observed with regard to the annual audit of security camera usage conducted by the Personal Safety Committee.

UPD personnel should log the time and date of any request to view security camera recordings. The log should clearly indicate the reason for the request. It should also indicate the particular dates and times of security camera recordings so accessed. The log should also note whether the accessed recordings were relevant to the purpose of the request. This documentation should be retained for at least seven (7) years, or as required by legal mandate.

The logs compiled by UPD officials entrusted with the responsibility of accessing security camera data will be submitted annually to the Personal Safety Committee for the purpose of an independent audit. The audit should be overseen by a member of the committee from the faculty or staff, not someone affiliated with UPD or Community Standards. The results of the audit should be made public and disseminated to the campus community.

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Published May 4, 2009