A video camera was found hidden Monday in a school administrative office in Prince George’s County, authorities said, prompting county police to investigate who placed the device there and why.
At a hastily called news conference Monday evening, Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said officials wanted to inform the public of the discovery and reassure parents that the device was not found in a public area such as a bathroom, locker room or other location where students might be recorded.
“It was not in a place that lends itself to prurient behavior. We do not believe it was placed for criminal purposes,” Stawinski said. “We believe this was placed to gather information. We want to reassure parents.”
“This is not in a locker room or a bathroom,” he said. “This isn’t one of those circumstances.”
The chief said investigators are conducting a forensic analysis of the device to determine what information it captured. Officials believe it had been in place for several months and that the camera could be accessed remotely by the person who placed it in the office.
Kevin M. Maxwell, the Prince George’s school system chief executive, said he was notified of the incident Monday and immediately called Stawinski to investigate.
The Prince George’s school system has been engulfed in controversy in recent months because of a scandal involving graduation rates and the awarding of substantial pay raises to some officials. Maxwell declined to discuss whether the discovery of the camera could relate to ongoing issues in the school system.
Officials would not identify the school or the office where the camera was found, Stawinski said, because police consider the occupant of the office a victim. A school official discovered the video camera, authorities said.
Police said they had not determined whether the motive involved gathering details about school system business, personnel information, student information, or if it was personal in nature.
Stawinski declined to say how many people may have been recorded by the device. Officials swept the school for other cameras and devices, but police did not find any, Stawinski said.
The chief cautioned that investigators had possession of the camera for only a few hours and did not have a full accounting of what data the device contained.
“Based on what I know, several hours into this investigation, this device in the context of this environment stands alone,” Stawinski said. “We don’t believe there are similar devices in similar environments in school buildings.”