Officers Fail To Provide Enough Evidence That Video Camera In Locker Room Was Working

A group of police officers for the City of Harrison, New York, brought a Fourth Amendment lawsuit against the City, alleging that the installation of a video camera in the Department’s men’s locker room violated their privacy rights. Finding a lack of evidence that the camera worked as intended, a federal court dismissed the lawsuit.

The camera was designed to work with DigiVue computer software that had been installed on a Department computer. Recording was to be triggered by a sensor designed to detect movement within the camera’s field of vision. The motion sensor never worked as designed, however. The Department attempted to procure upgraded software that would have enabled the camera to function with a motion sensor as intended, but it was unsuccessful, and the upgraded software was never installed.

On May 4, 2005, the computer captured two still images from the camera, though no one was visible in either picture. Apparently, these were the only images captured by the camera. The operators of the computer all testified that they never saw or heard any audio or video recordings of anyone in the locker room, and that they never observed anyone in the locker room on camera.

In mid to late 2005, a supervisor ordered that the camera be removed from the locker room and that the DigiVue software be removed from the computer. The software was uninstalled, but the two still images captured in May 2005 were not deleted. Moreover, the camera remained in the locker room for several additional months.

On December 24, 2005, two officers observed the camera in a ceiling vent in the locker room. When the existence of the camera was brought to his attention, the chief disconnected it.

Reviewing this history, the Court found that, at most, the officers established that the installation of the video camera in the locker room of the Harrison Police Department “created a potential for an invasion of privacy.” What the officers failed to prove, the Court held, was “whether such an invasion actually occurred. The still pictures of an empty locker room are the only images ever captured by the camera. At best, there is evidence that the camera may, on occasion, have worked, albeit not as intended. The officers have not produced any evidence that a recording of any kind was ever made in which one of them appeared, nor have they produced any evidence that anyone using the camera ever observed their activities in the locker room.

“After considering the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, it is clear that the Plaintiffs have offered, at most, the potential for an invasion of privacy but have offered no evidence of an actual invasion of privacy.”

Carpiniello v. Hall, 2010 WL 987022 (S.D. N.Y. 2010).

Note: Absent from the Court’s opinion is any indication as to why the Department thought it necessary to install a camera in the men’s locker room.

This article appears in the June 2010 issue