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Hidden Camera in Police Station Stuns Chief

Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

September 17, 2010

The rumor going around Darby Borough is that a cop recently discovered an unauthorized surveillance camera inside the police station – a camera that not even the chief knew was there.

It’s true.

The camera had been installed in the station on Summit Street unbeknownst to most Darby cops, including Chief Bob Smythe, the chief said. The mayor, council president and chairman of the council’s public-safety committee also were unaware, they said yesterday.

“I was pissed off when I heard about it,” said Smythe, who learned of the camera this month and ordered it disconnected. “Nothing like that should be going on without me knowing about it.”

This is a sensitive topic in Delaware County. Last year, two former Folcroft officials did jail time on felony convictions stemming from the 2004 discovery of a covert surveillance system that taped a female cop undressing inside Folcroft’s police station.

Darby’s situation doesn’t appear to involve criminal wrongdoing, the police chief said.

Smythe said yesterday that Lt. Darrell Guy had approved the installation of the camera in the police clerk’s office after complaints that the clerk was being rude to the public. The camera, Smythe said, was a misguided attempt to determine “who was right and who was wrong” in those disputes.

Guy apparently never told Smythe or the council about the camera, which was so inconspicuous that “most people” in the department didn’t realize it was there, Smythe said.

Guy said last night that the camera “wasn’t operational,” but declined to comment further.

“The whole thing was dumb,” Smythe said, sounding exasperated by the incident.

Smythe said the camera was installed for free by the borough’s off-site computer expert and was set up to transmit footage to a password-protected Internet address, but, “to my knowledge, as of this moment, nothing was recorded.”

Darby officials were alarmed yesterday when contacted by the Daily News.

“What is it? A camera you said? I don’t know anything about it, but I’d like to,” said Council President Janice Davis.

“Who and what? A camera in the police station? I don’t know anything about it,” said Councilman Herb Blackson, chairman of the public-safety committee.

“Let me look into this,” Mayor Helen Thomas said.

In 2006, former Councilman Joseph Zito and Republican power broker Anthony Truscello – the self-described “Wizard of Folcroft” – were convicted of tampering with public records after they installed hidden cameras inside the Folcroft police station. Prosecutors alleged that they prepared false bills to hide the cost of the surveillance equipment.

Smythe bristled at any comparison to that scandal, two towns over from Darby.

“Do I think someone maliciously did something? No,” he said.

Councilwoman Edna Stockley, who has clashed with Smythe and the ruling council members, said she hopes to get more information at tonight’s council meeting.

“Nobody knows how it got there? Very mysterious,” Stockley said of her fellow council members. “They knew about it. I don’t care what they say.”

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