Seattle police should wear body cameras, says councilman

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by LINDA BRILL / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 14, 2011 at 7:36 PM

SEATTLE – The time has come for Seattle police officers to start wearing body cameras, says one city councilman.

Four body cameras are on loan to the Seattle police department, but the department has held off on testing them.

Lake Forest Park police have been testing the cameras for about a year. An officer wearing the camera tells people right off the bat that they are being recorded.

"I've contacted drivers who are obviously very upset on traffic stops. Once I've identified that they're being recorded, all of a sudden I see the anger, the attitude, things like that actually drop down," said Officer Morris Parrish. "For me personally, I found it helps me watch what I'm saying."

"I know the public wants great public safety, they want accountability, and they want to use new technology," said Councilman Bruce Harrell, who wrote on op-ed letter to The Seattle Times.

Dramatic patrol car dash-cam video showed Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk demand that John T. Williams, a native woodcarver, drop his knife last August. Birk could be heard opening fire, killing Williams, but it was out of view of the camera. We'd likely know a lot more about the reasons for the shooting if Birk had worn a body camera.

Seattle police will eventually test the body cameras, said Mayor Mike McGinn Monday.

"We have to make sure we have the policies in place to understand how they should be used, when they should be on or off. How do we store the data we get from them," said McGinn.

There are privacy issues that concern the Seattle Police Guild. It says the use of body cameras will have to be negotiated as part of their contract which expires next year.

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