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Cameras in Patrol Cars

Cameras in patrol cars protect both the officers and community members by providing an unbiased view of what happens in a situation.

The idea of using video cameras in patrol car situations to promote officer safety and to provide accountability is supported by both citizens and police officers. Video offer a unique way to get 360 degree accountability, providing an unbiased, accurate view of what really happened in a situation.

History of the patrol car camera project

In 2002, the Seattle Police Department began an In-Car Camera Pilot Project to address the concern of racial profiling during traffic stops. The pilot project was very successful and in 2004 the Department was able to deploy cameras to 94 patrol cars with the help of a federal grant.

By late summer 2007, the entire patrol car fleet had been equipped with cameras. Today, there are video cameras in all SPD first responder vehicles, with the exception of motorcycles. There are nearly 300 cameras in total.

How do the cameras work?

Seattle's program uses the latest in digital technology, uploading videos and accompanying audio recordings wirelessly. Because the officer does not need to physically handle videotapes, this allows for a secure chain of evidence if used in a legal proceeding.

There are three ways for an officer to activate camera: flipping on the overhead lights automatically starts the camera; turning the camera on manually inside the car; or activating a wireless microphone outside the car. Under state law, officers are required to notify citizens that voice recordings are being made.

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