State lawmakers take up issue of SPD dash-cam videos

SEATTLE -- An ongoing investigation into Seattle police practices is spurring swift action in the state legislature.

For more than a year, the KOMO 4 Problem Solvers sought access to SPD's video system to examine police accountability. Those requests were repeatedly denied, and now state legislators are taking up the cause and may change the law itself.

Taxpayers foot the bill for the cameras, computers and servers that record and store Seattle police dash cam videos, but right now the public has little access to the videos themselves.

In an effort to make the videos open to the media and general public, KOMO News sued the department for violating the Public Records Act.

"This area of law is not as clear as it could be with respect to privacy laws and what the police officers are actually recording," said City of Seattle lobbyist Craig Engelking.

KOMO and other open government advocates want the legislature to change the law.

"That would solve a whole bunch of problems for the public, and it would enhance public accountability," said KOMO attorney Judy Endejan.

By phone, Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell testified that the city needs a unified voice on the issue.

"This is videotape and video evidence paid by taxpayers, it's a public document, public evidence," he said.

Sen. Adam Kline, a Seattle Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he agrees with Harrell.

"My own personal feeling is that it's likely in the end that this is not really defensible policy," Kline said.

Kline expects quick action on a bill that he said would give the public much greater access to dash cam videos.