Seattle police body cameras hit roadblock

An anonymous citizen is using bureaucracy to slow the Seattle Police Department’s effort to test equipping police officers with body cameras.

An anonymous man is using a legal loophole to create roadblocks in Seattle’s effort to equip police officers with video cameras.

The Seattle Times reported on Monday that a computer programmer in his 20s who lives in Seattle has requested that the Seattle Police Department send him “details on every 911 dispatch on which officers are sent; all the written reports they produce; and details of each computer search generated by officers when they run a person’s name, or check a license plate or address.”

The requestor, who the Times would not name, also wants all video from patrol car cameras currently in use, and plans to request video from body cams once they are installed. He has requested the information “every day, in spreadsheet form.”

The largeness of the request has caused the city’s police department to rethink the body cam project’s launch. Washington state’s broad-reaching public-disclosure law does not provide a means for public agencies to reject requests for being overly broad, so the city would be forced to fulfill the request.


Police are examining whether the request can be fulfilled, and what kind of fees to charge, if any, said Seattle Police Department COO Mike Wagers, in an interview with the paper.

“This would just shut down so many other aspects of our operation, responding to a request of this nature,” Wagers told the Seattle Times.

The Seattle Police Department plans to launch a pilot program in a few weeks where officers will test the use of body cameras. The idea of on-duty police wearing cameras has gained significant momentum since the shooting of Michael Brown during an altercation with police earlier this year in Ferguson, Missouri.

In the wake of Brown’s shooting, an online petition requiring all police officers to wear cameras got an official response from the White House, and police departments around the country have been looking into – or launching – body camera programs for officers.

There is a feeling that when officers wear cameras, the public tends to behave better as do the police officers since they know their actions are being recorded for a court of law to see.


The cameras raise other questions, though, in particular regarding civil liberties. Some privacy groups feel the cameras could infringe on the civil liberties of the general population if used incorrectly and have called on law enforcement agencies to take strong steps to ensure that the civil liberties of people are being protected with these programs.

Obviously, some still see these issues as unresolved.

The man in Seattle, who runs a YouTube channel of police video and audio, also spoke to Reuters, stating his belief that “state law is simply too liberal when it comes to privacy.”

He said he’s filed similar requests throughout Washington state, including a request for all surveillance video held by the Seattle Public Library.


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