Security footage finds its way to Facebook
Footage from the former county jail building made its way to Facebook during the election season, raising the concern—and hackles—of county commissioners at their regular meeting last Thursday.
County Commissioner Martin Saffer summoned Sheriff David Jonese to the meeting to explain how the apparent security camera footage wound up on the social media website.
The footage in question was posted on October 28 to the Jonese for Sheriff Facebook page.
The brief video, which has no audio track, appears to show Prosecuting Attorney Donna Meadows Price speaking with two Sheriff's Department employees at a counter in the jail. As they talk, Jonese appears to come through a door behind the counter, and—seeing Price—quickly turns the other way, closing the door behind him. After the door is closed, Price raised her hand and extended her middle finger in the Sheriff's direction.
Saffer admitted he had not viewed the video on Facebook himself.
"I was told by two people that data from these cameras showed up on Facebook," said Saffer. "Now, I want to know how that happened."
While the video was accompanied by a caption written in first-person about the Sheriff's campaign and his contentious relationship with the prosecutor, Jonese stated that he did not post the video himself.
The Commissioner's inquiry into the matter quickly turned into a verbal confrontation with Jonese.
"Who posted it?" Saffer asked.
"That's not for me to tell you," Jonese replied.
That exchange set off a heated back-and-forth between the two men.
"You cannot take information which is used for security purposes, which was paid for by tax dollars, and put it on Facebook," said Saffer.
You're wrong," Jonese repeated insistently. "(When) you walk in there, you have no expectation of privacy."
Jonese said he "checked" before the footage was posted, but the sheriff refused to tell Saffer whom he consulted.
"I think people have an expectation of privacy that they're not going to show up on Faceobok when they walk into the courthouse," said Saffer.
"Really?" Jonese responded "Everyone knows there's cameras in there."
"That doesn't mean that they're supposed to be posted on Facebook," demanded Saffer. "They are there for security reasons. That's why we got the grant (to purchase the cameras)--to protect people, not to invade their privacy."
When Saffer asked Jonese, point-blank, if he authorized the posting of the video, the sheriff dodged the question.
"You know what? Those are my cameras, my office," said Jonese. "I'll make the decisions."
"It was just something someone put out there," the Sheriff said of the video when asked why it was posted to Facebook. "I didn't do it."
In addition to the privacy question, Saffer said it was improper to post such footage on a campaign-related website.
Commissioners David Fleming and Jamie Walker both said they were concerned that courthouse security footage would be posted to Facebook.
"I am concerned that there would be footage leaked outside of your department, from the security cameras," said Fleming. "I appreciate having the cameras to monitor courthouse security. I think we should have more security, in terms of a metal detector, et cetera. But the footage needs to stay in your control."
Jonese stated that he is responsible for recordings that are made with the security cameras, adding that the cameras in the jail are there to protect his deputies from claims arising from arrests, interviews or interrogations.
"Those are my cameras to make sure that I can protect my guys," said Jonese.
The footage was removed from the Jonese for Sheriff Facebook page by Friday. However, Fleming said the County Commission is seeking advice from the West Virginia Ethics Commission on the matter.