A recent article in Government Technology reported that a Florida mayor, concerned about someone stealing items from his office, installed $8,000 worth of surveillance cameras in his office – at taxpayer expense.
Leaving the details of this case (and the related investigation) aside, the story brings up an intriguing question. How would any of us behave differently if we knew the public was watching us on live streaming video?
On the surface, some out there might say such over-the-top surveillance (particularly if we didn’t know when we were being watched or heard) might improve an employee’s overall attention to customer service, productivity, communication, attitude, and so on.
And while it’s certainly valid to expect professional behavior and productive work habits from public servants, you’d think after a while the cameras and hidden microphones would have the opposite effect. Work and morale would inevitably suffer with this amount of scrutiny. After all, this is not “1984.”
Short of actually installing cameras and planting bugs inside city halls, state office buildings and federal offices, however, it’s still advisable to practice open communication and be transparent with those who pay our salaries. In any industry, especially government, it’s never a good idea to be secretive, and certainly not to assume that people probably won’t care enough to hear the details – or be capable of understanding.
To the contrary, providing engaging communication to the public must be a big part of working for the government. Giving people powerful tools with which to make informed decisions about various aspects of their life, neighborhood, and nation should never be something to fear.