State employees say supervisors are spying on them with taxpayer-funded cameras

Updated: Dec. 13, 2019 at 4:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over the course of the last year, an additional set of surveillance cameras have been installed at the state parole office on Alakea Street.

Originally, employees believed the cameras were being installed for their protection, since they routinely deal with ex-convicts.

But some of the cameras are now also being pointed directly at their work spaces, where they don’t typically interact with visitors to the office, and the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the union which represents the office’s workers, has filed a grievance with the state.

Images obtained by Hawaii News Now show the reception area of the Hawaii Paroling Authority office, as well as the common areas ― but there are also a lot of images of desks and inside cubicles.

“Seventeen cameras to surveil," said State Sen. Clarence Nishihara. "(The paroling office) isn’t a prison, it isn’t a jail. So who are they looking at, and why are they doing it?”

Nishihara is chair of the Senate’s Committee on Public Safety. He says he expects the Department of Public Safety and the Hawaii Paroling Authority to ask lawmakers to fund even more cameras during the next session, as part of a plan to expand the use of surveillance equipment in state facilities.

Cameras at the state parole office point directly at employees
Cameras at the state parole office point directly at employees(None)

The union’s complaint letter to the paroling authority asks leaders to consult with the union officials regarding the quantity of digital surveillance devices, as well as the appropriate access, use, and distribution of all the data gathered by the cameras.

The letter also asks that the cameras be redirected toward public areas.

Nishihara says multiple workers expressed discomfort that the cameras had been pointed in their direction. Some reportedly said they felt awkward just adjusting clothing, knowing their supervisors were watching.

In a statement, a spokesperson said the cameras had been placed there for the safety and security of staff but couldn’t provide a lot of details because of the pending grievance.

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