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Published on Monday, February 23, 2015

Body camera legislation updates

As noted in previous Bulletin articles, there are three body camera bills AWC is tracking this legislative session.

HB 1917 is the result of work done by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and is AWC’s preferred legislation.

On Thursday, February 19, the House Judiciary Committee took executive action and amended the bill. It was amended as follows:

  • Limits the legislation to jurisdictions that have developed body cameras by the effective date of the act;
  • Removes the requirement that a person who requests and receives a recording give direct third party notice to all non-law enforcement or corrections individuals before disclosing the recording to any other person;
  • Provides that a person not involved in the incident who seeks disclosure of a recording must obtain a court order finding that the person requesting disclosure gave notice and opportunity to obtain a court order to enjoin all or some of the intended disclosure to all non-law enforcement or corrections individuals;
  • Requires law enforcement agencies that use body-worn cameras to set minimum policies regarding when a body-worn camera must be activated and de-activated and when an officer has the discretion to activate and de-activate body-worn cameras;
  • Stipulates what to do when a person may be unwilling to communicate with an officer who is recording the communication;
  • Stipulates how an officer will document when and why a body-worn camera was de-activated;
  • Creates a taskforce to review and report on law enforcement agencies use of body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras; and
  • Provides that recordings may be used for officer accountability, evidentiary purposes, and any other purpose not prohibited by law.

AWC supports this legislation in order to bring much needed clarity to jurisdictions that use body cameras. While the bill passed out of Committee, it still has an uphill battle to pass the House. Cities interested in this issue should contact their legislators and encourage them to support HB 1917. The other two bills concerning body cameras are HB 1910 and SB 5732. Both bills died in committee.