SPD body camera program set to expand September 30

KING 5's Heather Graf reports.

Seattle's police body camera program put in place by former Mayor Ed Murray is still moving forward under new leadership at city hall.

"The body camera program is being phased in now, and that will continue.  I strongly support officers wearing body cameras," Mayor Tim Burgess said on Tuesday.

Representatives with SPD, the city attorney's office, and the Seattle Police Officers' Guild told  KING 5 that the timeline laid out in Murray's executive order regarding body cameras will remain in place.

The rollout began with bike officers in the West Precinct, who were the first to start wearing the body cameras on July 22.  By September 30, all West Precinct patrol officers will be wearing them.  As of this week, SPD told KING 5 the department has already deployed more than 150 cameras to West Precinct personnel. 

SPD will be required to implement the cameras on a monthly, precinct-by-precinct bases, until all patrol officers are wearing them.  KING 5 has learned that patrol officers in the North Precinct will be next to get the cameras, after those in the West Precinct.

By October 31, SPD says all patrol officers in the North Precinct will be equipped with the cameras.

The president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild says the union's 1300 officers will comply with that plan.

"The reality is, body cameras are here.  No one is fighting that or disputing that.  It's here, but let's get it right and let's be fair.  It's a change in working conditions," said SPOG President Kevin Stuckey.  

Because the union believes body cameras are a change in officer working conditions, Stuckey says the use of the cameras must be negotiated through the collective bargaining process.

And that hasn't yet happened.

"I don't know any union, public or private, where that's something that is okay.  It's been a long journey," said Stuckey.  "In this state, we still do collective bargaining.  We've asked that you come and treat us fairly and equitably.  We've done our jobs.  Now, we ask that you, our elected officials, do yours."

SPOG's social media posts over the last few days reflect that growing frustration.  

"992 days and still no labor contract.  City Hall is listless and taking on water," the union wrote in one Facebook post.  

Another SPOG Facebook post calls on the interim mayor to bring the city back to the negotiating table.  

KING 5 asked Tim Burgess, a former Seattle police officer, whether he could consider doing that during the 70 days he'll serve as mayor.

"Perhaps, but it's important to remember that the city successfully negotiated a contract with our police union last year.  Their board approved it, it was an excellent contract, it was fair, and then their membership rejected it," said Burgess.  "So this idea that somehow the city government is not negotiating with them is just not accurate.  We had to start over after they rejected the contract last year."

Stuckey says it's not that simple.

"It was a good contract for him," said Stuckey, referring to Burgess.  "Our members, over 823 of them, rejected it.  That's how negotiations work."

The police union has already filed a labor complaint against the city, just days after the body camera program was implemented in July.

In August, the state Public Employees Relations Commission issued a preliminary ruling in favor of the police union.  

The city then filed a response to the complaint.  The city attorney's office has said it looks forward to defending the body camera executive order before the Public Employment Relations Commission and before a judge if necessary, citing overwhelming public support for the body camera program.

PERC is expected to set a hearing date on the matter soon.

"We're not opposed to body cameras," said Stuckey.  "We're just opposed on how they're implementing it.  Because you can't ask me to abide by the laws but then you're not abiding by the law.  That's not how things work."

© 2017 KING-TV


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