SEATTLE -- The program has been in the works for years. But after several delays, KING 5 News has learned police body cameras will finally hit the streets of Seattle this weekend. But not everyone thinks the program is ready.
Seattle Police Department's chief operating officer Mike Wagers says the intent of the program is to collect evidence and monitor officer behavior.
"Perhaps it changes behavior of both officers and citizens," said Wagers. "And that's what the research has shown. But it's still just a tool. If you're not doing all the other things right, it's not going to matter."
A dozen volunteering officers from the department's East Precinct will first test cameras from the Taser company for the first 60 to 90 days, then try out cameras from the Seattle-based Vievu company.
They will record interactions while out on calls, notifying people when they're being recorded. In private areas they will ask for consent to record, unless the officer believes a crime is in progress.
But it is the officer who controls when the camera is on, and that's what bothers the American Civil Liberties Union.
"Our position is that the cameras should always be on," said Jared Friend, technology and liberty director for the ACLU. "If you provide police officers with the discretion to turn them off, it undermines the accountability purpose."
SPD reminds critics this is still a pilot program and says officers will likely face discipline for not turning the cameras on in required situations, once the program is in full swing.
"The [officers] will have to document all of this," said Wagers. "We'll be able to evaluate when they're turning it off, why they're turning it off, if there are legitimate reasons we didn't think about."
Wagers says they are still trying to figure out how best to store the video and streamline public records requests for the footage.
The goal is to take the program department wide in a year.