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Published on Friday, February 6, 2015

Body camera legislation up for debate in Legislature

Two separate bills addressing body camera protocol and policies have been introduced over the past week. The first, HB 1917, is the result of work done by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

HB 1917, concerning video and/or sound recordings made by law enforcement or corrections officers, Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island), is scheduled for public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, February 12 at 1:30 pm.

HB 1917 outlines provisions surrounding the disclosure of video (dash/body cameras, etc.) and/or sound recordings by a uniformed law enforcement or corrections officer while in the course of his or her official duties. The provisions include:

  1. A request to specifically identify the name of the person or persons involved, and the incident or case number, or the specific date, time and location of the incident. In addition, the request must be made by a person directly involved in the incident recorded, be an attorney representing the individual involved in the recording, or if a court finds that it is within the public's interest to disclose the video or sound recording. Law enforcement responding to such requests must require any person requesting a video or sound recording to identify his/herself to ensure compliance.
  2. Any person requesting data is prohibited from displaying or disclosing the video or sound recording without first providing direct third-party notice to each non-law enforcement individual in the recording. Each individual in the recording shall also first be afforded an opportunity to obtain an order from the court to enjoin all or some of the content.
  3. A law enforcement agency responding to a request for a recording may require the requestor to pay the costs of redacting any portion of the recording before disclosure.

HB 1910/SB 5732: Encouraging effective oversight of law enforcement conduct, Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline), Sen. Pramilia Jayapal (D-Seattle). HB 1910 is scheduled for public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee at 1:30 pm on February 12. SB 5732 is currently not scheduled for public hearing.

Specifically, the bills require:

  1. Any oversight recorder, when mounted in a vehicle or to a law enforcement officer, to be operated continuously while the officer is on duty. This excludes periods of time when the officer uses the restroom or is on a break.
  2. Officers to communicate with the public when a recording is being made.
  3. A retention schedule for flagged or un-flagged recordings. Flagged recordings are those where the incident involved use of force, or when a complaint, formal or informal, is registered. Subjects of a recording may also flag the footage. Flagged recordings shall be kept for three years, or the duration of any investigation, whichever is longer. Flagged recordings are subject to the Public Records Act, but are only to be disclosed if the subject of the recording consents. If it is impossible to gain consent from all subjects in a recording because there are too many, their identities must be redacted. Un-flagged recordings only need to be kept for 60 days.
  4. Any jurisdictions that utilize recording devices are subject to audits and evaluations by the law enforcement oversight recorder program. The audit and evaluation must be conducted at least biennially.