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Video: Washington Agencies Overwhelmed by Records Requests May Drop Body Cams

November 11, 2014  | 

VIDEO: Washington Agencies Overwhelmed by Records Requests May Drop Body Cams

Two Seattle area agencies are reconsidering their use of officer-worn video systems because of records requests from the owner of a YouTube account.

The Poulsbo, Wash., police have been wearing body cameras for about a year, and the department says the results have been good.

It's the same thing for Bremerton police, who finished a six-week pilot project this summer and expect to receive funding to start a regular program in 2015.

But last month a new YouTube user site, set up by someone under the name "Police Video Requests," threw a monkey wrench into the works, according to KOMO TV.

The site's profile says it posts dash and body cam videos received after public records requests to Washington state police departments. Authorities believe the site was set up as a commercial venture.

In September, Police Video Requests asked Poulsbo PD for every second of body cam video it has ever recorded. The department figures it will take three years to fill that request. And Chief Al Townsend believes it is a huge privacy concern, as officers often see people on their worst days.

Now the city of Poulsbo says it may have to suspend or even end its police body cam program. Bremerton PD is, at least temporarily, shelving its plans to start up its own body cam program because of the blanket requests received by Poulsbo and other agencies in the state.

Both departments plan to ask the state legislature during its upcoming session to amend public records laws to specifically prohibit these types of blanket video records requests.


Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

jack @ 11/11/2014 10:25 PM

Doesn't sound like a reasonable request. You should only be able to request records of a specific incident, like "the shooting on 10/08/2013". And even then most states allow police departments to set a reasonable charge for the records that cover the cost of time associated with finding the record. To get video for every second for 3 years would probably cost several thousand dollars for time associated with putting the video on hard drive discs, and the cost of those hard drives. You can't put that much data on a cd disc. Also in my police department we don't have to give out records for incidents that are currently in court - we refer them to our Prosecutor.

jack @ 11/12/2014 4:01 AM

Jack: Washington State public records act requires "fullest assistance" even for "Give me everything you have." The act says records can be inspected at no cost and fees are only for copying. There is no copying fee because the body camera footage is stored on evidence.com which has external sharing builtin. The cost to the agency is reviewing the cases and videos themselves. In Washington the only blanket exemption that applies to body cameras is the investigation exemption.

GP Cobb @ 11/12/2014 10:49 AM

Sounds like the freedom of information act of 1966 is fully in place, sigh.

Bill @ 11/12/2014 10:54 AM

Why not simply make it publicly available by default? Exemptions should exist for such a policy(such as video that shows a person dying, active investigations, ongoing litigation, and more I'm sure). I get that LEO's don't like being filmed, but 9 times out of ten, these videos exonerate the LEO's.
For example, the dumb girl who was recently arrested for DUI/PI, and once she realized she wasn't getting out of it she accused the cop of sexual assault. The body cam proved otherwise, and if I'm not mistaking she is now facing felony charges.

Lyndon Dacuan @ 12/2/2014 5:04 PM

Great article, I live in Washington State so this is very relevant to me.

Body cameras for law enforcement officers is something we began seeing a growing trend for a few months back, we wrote a blog about that trend and found some interesting data points. If you are interested in learning more about the purchasing side of things by public safety agencies, check out the blog here: http://www.onvia.com/blog/police-body-camera-trials-present-contract-opportunities

Looking forward to more body camera content as it is a relatively hot topic in the news right now.

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