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Council News Release

6/30/2010  10:38:00 AM
Jennifer Samuels and Michael Jerrett, Councilmember Harrell's office, 206-684-8804

Councilmember Bruce Harrell
Councilmember Tim Burgess

Councilmember Harrell explores technical feasibility of placing cameras on all Seattle Police officers

Head or body mounted video cameras can provide additional perspective of events

SEATTLE Councilmember Bruce Harrell has scheduled a special meeting of the Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee requesting the Department of Information Technology and the Seattle Police Department to provide an update on the feasibility of placing state of the art camera and video technology on Seattle Police Officers. This addition may assist the Citys public safety efforts and reduce potentially violent situations.

The discussion will take place during a special Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee meeting on Wednesday, July 7, 2010, at 12:00-1:00 p.m. Meetings are held in Council Chambers at City Hall and the public is encouraged to attend. The meeting will include a demonstration of the latest on-person video camera technologies.

"According to some police departments, body-mounted cameras should be the way of the future. Recent incidents have shown us that video is a powerful tool that can be used to the benefit of both citizens and officers," said Councilmember Harrell.

Councilmember Tim Burgess, Chair of the Public Safety and Education Committee says, "We have been aggressively exploring new means to assist our officers and improve public safety and Seattle should consider the feasibility and usefulness of this technology. We now have the benefit of examining the deployment of cameras in other jurisdictions to determine the lessons learned and whether their application makes sense in Seattle."

Recent pilot programs in the United Kingdom involving head mounted cameras on police have provided positive results. In the city of Plymouth in southwest England, footage recorded by officers was useful in public disorder cases. People who might normally dispute their charge decided not to after watching police video of their conduct. A similar pilot project is underway in San Jose, California, where 18 officers are using the technology.

"In Victoria and Scotland for example, trials are underway where police officers are equipped with body-worn cameras and the cameras have apparently made it easier to sustain charges and deter anti-social behavior. It also preserves a record of what occurs in the field which could be helpful for all involved," said Councilmember Harrell.

While the Seattle Police Department is using video cameras in their vehicles, Councilmembers Harrell and Burgess want to examine the feasibility of expanding video camera use outside of the patrol car. The committee will discuss the costs and benefits and the possibility of moving forward with this initiative.

"There are several policy issues that this kind of initiative raises such as the extent to which it changes police working conditions and what protocols would be established for the use and archiving of camera footage, but those issues should be defined and addressed in conjunction with identifying the right technology or products," says Councilmember Harrell.

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