Today, Mayor Ed Murray, working with City Attorney Pete Holmes, signed an Executive Order requiring all Seattle Police patrol officers to wear body-worn video cameras (body cameras). The order requires the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to equip West Precinct bike patrol officers with cameras by July 22 and all West Precinct officers by September 30, putting the department on track to fully implement a program that has undergone multiple pilot programs. All other officers will get body cameras on a monthly precinct by precinct basis. Mayor Murray is directing prompt implementation of the program to ensure no further significant uses of force by police officers go undocumented by a video record.
“Body cameras improve behavior and de-escalation on both sides of the camera,” said Mayor Murray. “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.”
“Body-worn cameras are known to be an effective police accountability tool,” said City Attorney Holmes. “They will not only improve community trust of our police department, they will also provide a measure of protection for our officers as well. This action today by Mayor Murray will help to ensure that SPD deploys the cameras as soon as possible while continuing to bargain with our police unions in good faith.”
Mayor Murray first proposed funding for body cameras in his 2016 budget, months after the City was awarded a $600,000 federal grant. The City then began a stakeholder and community engagement process as part of a 2016 pilot. A March 2016 survey conducted by the Community Police Commission and SPD, as a part of its 2016 body-worn camera pilot program, found that 86 percent of community members would want officers to be wearing body cameras when they responded to a call for service. Additionally, a study commissioned by the Federal Monitor overseeing the City’s compliance with the federally mandated Consent Decree, found that 92 percent of Seattleites want to see body cameras on officers.
Major cities such as Oakland, Denver, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Detroit, and localities like Spokane currently have cameras on officers. Today’s announcement adds Seattle to that list and helps move the City closer to achieving the principles behind police reform: increased accountability and improved relationships with the community.