SPD officers to start wearing body cameras

FILE -- Body camera as seen on a Seattle Police Officer (Photo: KOMO Staff)

SEATTLE -- Seattle police officers will now be required to wear body cameras, mayor Ed Murray announced Monday in signing an executive order.

Starting next week, bike patrol officers in the West Precinct will be outfitted with cameras that record both audio and video. Once those deployments have been made, cameras will then be distributed to the rest of the patrol officers in the West Precinct by Sept. 30.

Murray says other precincts will follow on a month-by-month basis.

“Body cameras improve behavior and de-escalation on both sides of the camera,” Murray said in a statement announcing the order. “We have taken far too long to fully implement the body camera program due to legislative gridlock—it is past time to move forward. This order will get cameras on officers on the street, so we know what happens during interactions with the public. This level of accountability is good for both officers and the public, and will help build trust in a time where the community, particularly the African American community, is hurting.”

Officers' every interaction on the job will be recorded -- from crime scenes, to protests to on the street conversations

The department had said in late December it had hoped to have over 800 officers outfitted by the end of 2017.

More than 50 police departments across the state have experimented with body cameras, but only a handful actually use them daily.

City Council President Bruce Harrell issued a statement in support of Murray's decision and said it was long overdue.

"The federal monitor as well as the federal judge have approved their deployment. The funding has already been authorized, the hardware platform and training is ready to go, and the policies have been approved by the federal judge. The ongoing collective bargaining process should not sideline an effective tool that will improve police accountability and help our police officers. Community survey after community survey states that body cameras are wanted by both police officers and community members with 92 percent supportive. As we move forward, I expect a learning curve for both officers and civilians, as well as a refinement and improvement of policy. But we cannot stand idly by and let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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