16.091 - Body-Worn Video Pilot Program
Effective Date 12/29/2016
This policy applies to officers who have volunteered to participate in the Body-Worn Video (BWV) Pilot Program and all employees that view recorded videos. The pilot program's primary focus is to evaluate the business process of recording, storing, and public disclosure of body-worn video.
The Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officers' Guild outlines the scope of the program. Pursuant to that agreement, there will be no discipline that follows from not recording a particular incident with BWV. However, the Department may remove volunteer officers from participation in the pilot program for failure to record events as outlined in this policy.
Officers must also continue to follow the ICV policies if they are sworn employees who operate In-Car Video (ICV) systems (including Patrol, Traffic, Gang Unit, Canine, SWAT, etc.).
1. All Officers Operating BWV Must Have Completed BWV Training
Before officers deploy with a BWV camera, they will complete Department training on the proper use of the equipment and procedures for uploading recorded video. This training will include:
- Objectives of the BWV Pilot Program
- Camera operation
- Proper placement of the camera
- Department policy on camera usage
- Recording advisements
The Department will continually review both in-car and body-worn video programs, including this manual section and related training, considering changes in best practices, technology, and legal standards.
2. Officers Operating BWV Must Wear the Camera Properly
Officers will wear the camera in a location consistent with the training that allows the camera to record events.
3. Officers Will Perform Pre-Shift Function Checks and Note Malfunctions
At the start of the shift, officers will perform a check, as outlined in the BWV training, for issues with any of the following:
- Camera mounting
- Recording functionality
- Previous uploads
- Battery charging
Any time the officer is aware of equipment malfunctions, the officer will:
- Notify a sergeant
- Note the malfunction on the MDC/CAD log, including the screening sergeant's name
- Notify IT staff for troubleshooting
4. Officers Will Record Police Activity
Unless otherwise prohibited by this policy, employees may initiate recording any time they determine it would be beneficial to capture an event or activity.
Officers will record the following police activity:
- Response to 911 calls, starting when the officer begins travel to the call and ending consistent with paragraph 5 below
- Terry stops
- Traffic stops
- On-View Criminal Activity
- Arrests and seizures
- Searches and inventories of vehicles or persons
- Transports (excluding ride-alongs and passengers for meetings)
- Vehicle Eluding/Pursuits
- Questioning suspects or witnesses (This does not include conversations with persons merely wishing to pass on information about general criminal activity not tied to a specific event.)
Employees will record the entire event to its conclusion unless specifically instructed otherwise by this manual section.
If circumstances prevent recording with BWV at the beginning of an event, the officer shall begin recording as soon as practical.
Employees will activate the BWV to record the above, even if the event is out of view of the camera.
Unless there is reasonable suspicion to believe that criminal activity is occurring or will occur, employees shall not intentionally record:
- People who are lawfully exercising their freedom of speech, press, association, assembly, religion, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. (Protected activity which is unintentionally captured while recording an event as otherwise required by this policy is not a violation.)
- Places where a heightened expectation of privacy exists, such as restrooms, jails, or hospitals, unless for a direct law enforcement purpose such as a crime in progress or the recording of the location is material to a criminal investigation.
5. Once Recording Has Begun, Employees Shall Not Stop Recording Until the Event Has Concluded
Once BWV recording has begun, officers will record the entire event. An event has concluded when all of the following apply:
- The employee has completed his or her part of the active investigation;
- There is little possibility that the employee will have further contact with any person involved in the event; and
- The employee is leaving the area of the event
For transports, the event has concluded when the officer reaches the transport destination, such as the jail, hospital, or precinct, and is exiting the vehicle.
Exception: Unless there is a crime in progress, or other circumstances exist that would allow the employee to be lawfully present without a warrant, employees will ask for consent to record with BWV in residences or other private areas not open to the public. The request and any response will be recorded.
If any person with legal standing denies permission to record, employees will stop recording with BWV while they are in the private area. However, employees will continue to record ICV audio, if equipped.
Other Times Employees May Stop Recording During an Event
If the employee is on a perimeter post at an extended major incident investigation, the on-scene supervisor, or FIT commander where FIT has been notified, may authorize ICV and BWV recording to be stopped when he or she reasonably believes further recording will not capture audio/visual evidence regarding the incident or enforcement efforts.
There may be limited circumstances when the respect for an individual's privacy or dignity outweighs the need to record an event, such as a natural death scene, death notification or a child or sexual assault victim interview. When an officer believes such circumstances exist, or that use of BWV would impede or limit the cooperation of a victim or witness during an investigative contact, an officer may deactivate the BWV.
Employees who stop recording during an event will state on the recording their intention to stop recording and explain the basis for that decision. Employees will also document the reason(s) in the GO report and/or CAD update.
Supervisors who direct that recordings cease will also document the basis for their actions in the GO report and/or CAD update.
6. Officers Shall Notify Persons of Recording
Employees shall notify persons that they are being recorded as soon as practical, and the notification must be on the recording. Employees will make an effort to ensure that non-English speakers, those with limited English proficiency, deaf persons, or persons hard of hearing understand that they are being recorded.
Employees will repeat the notification, if practical, for additional people that become involved in the recording.
When practical and consistent with RCW 9.73.090(1)(b), employees will again notify persons placed under arrest they are being recorded and verbally give Miranda warnings on the recording.
7. Officers Will Document the Existence of Video or Reason for Lack of Video
Employees will document the existence of video, lack of video, or delay of the start of video in a call update and any related GO report, Street Check, Notice of Infraction, Criminal Citation, or Traffic Contact Report (TCR).
Employees who are not logged to a call or event but capture video of the event will log to the call and note that the event was recorded in a call update.
If this policy requires that an event be recorded, and there is no recording or there was a delay in recording, employees must explain in writing why it was not recorded or why the start of the recording was delayed.
8. Officers Will Enter Data for Recorded Events
Employees will assign the appropriate event type for all recordings and enter any related GO or event number(s) in the proper format. (YYYY-#####)
Officers will "flag" videos if any portion of the videos may contain images or audio of any of the following:
- Complainant/victim/witness requesting non-disclosure
- Complainant/victim/witness not requesting nondisclosure but disclosure would endanger life, physical safety, or property
- Information that if disclosed, would be highly offensive to a reasonable individual and of no legitimate interest to the public
- Medical information or treatment
- Mental Health information or treatment
- Any identifiable juveniles
- Confidential informants
- Entry into a private residence
- Identity of or communication from a victim or witness to an incident involving domestic violence or sexual assault
- An identifiable location of a domestic violence program facility, emergency shelter, or transitional housing program
- Sexual activity, nudity, images of intimate body parts, or an intimate image as defined in RCW 9A.86 .010
- Body of a deceased person or other death-related images
9. Officers Shall Upload Recorded Video Before Going Out of Service
Officers will upload recorded video according to the training guidelines for the relevant unit model. If this is not completed before the end of shift, officers will notify a sergeant.
10. Officers Will Wear Only BWV Equipment Issued by the Department
Officers may not wear any personally-owned camera device for the purpose of recording enforcement activity. Only those camera units issued by the Department are authorized.
16.091-POL-2 Reviewing Body-Worn Video
This policy applies to all employees who review body-worn video recordings.
1. All Body Worn Videos and Related Data are the Property of the Seattle Police Department
Department policy governs all access, review, and release of body-worn video.
SPD Manual Section 12.080 - Retention and Disclosure of Department Records addresses video retention periods and release of video to the public, including persons wishing to file misconduct complaints
SPD Manual Section 12.045- Booking Photo Comparison Software addresses the use of biometric searching of footage.
Employees will not make copies of videos, by any means, for personal use.
2. Employees Shall Not Tamper With, Alter, or Delete Video
Exception: This does not apply to personnel tasked with system maintenance who purge videos under established retention guidelines.
3. Employees May Review Recorded Video
Employees may view body-worn video for the following purposes:
- Criminal investigation
- Officer-involved collision, including Collision Review Board investigations
- Vehicle Pursuit investigation or review
- Force Review Board
- Public Disclosure request
- Use of Force review or investigation
- Performance appraisal
- As part of the Early Intervention System (EIS)
- Training purposes, with the permission of the involved officers.
- Audit and Quality Control/Troubleshooting
4. Minor Misconduct Discovered During BWV Review Will Not Result in Discipline
If, in the course of viewing BWV, minor acts of misconduct unrelated to the original reason for viewing the video are discovered, they will not result in discipline or a sustained finding. However, such acts may result in a training referral or career counseling and may be included in an employee's performance evaluation.
In the context of BWV review, minor acts of misconduct will be handled either through mediation or the named officer's chain of command for appropriate follow up. In the context of BWV review, examples of minor misconduct include but are not limited to uniform violations, rudeness, and profanity.
Exception: Profanity and slurs that disparage a protected class under city, state, or federal law are not considered minor misconduct.
5. Users Shall Note the Purpose for Viewing Video
Any employee viewing a video shall manually make an entry in the application stating the purpose for viewing the video.
Each vendor's viewing application automatically logs the identity of a user who accesses a particular video, as well as the date and time of access.
6. Employees Shall Not Make Copies of Recorded Video Without Written Authorization From a Captain