KING COUNTY, Wash. — The King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) could receive $2 million in federal funding for body cameras and co-response support.
During a press conference on Friday, law enforcement and other officials said the plans to distribute body cameras to all KCSO patrols and increase funding for co-response support would protect officers and the community. Body cameras and co-response support would each receive $1 million in funding.
Body cameras are self-contained, battery-operated cameras that officers attach to the front of their uniforms. They record interactions between police and the people they encounter on the job.
A co-response involves a social worker or mental health professional who will accompany an officer on a call that involves someone in crisis. These calls usually involve potential suicide, drug use or other personal crises.
Congresswoman Kim Schrier said the county is struggling with public safety right now.
"We are all deeply frustrated by crime," Schrier said. "Our police officers and law enforcement officers need to have the tools they need in order to police, keep our communities safe and make sure we get the right resources at the right time."
Schrier also expressed the importance of "sequential response." This is when the responding law enforcement officer works to de-escalate the situation, then has a mental health professional come and address the underlying issue.
King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said body-worn cameras will be a cornerstone in ensuring they are equitable and transparent.
"Everyone here today sees the cost to acquire, deploy and support this proven tool as one of the best investments the sheriff's office and King County can make in enhancing public trust," Cole-Tindall said.
Currently, no KCSO deputies wear body cameras.
The KCSO had a 90-day pilot program in 2021. Cole-Tindall said it was a success. She estimated that roughly 600 deputies would wear the cameras when they were fully deployed. They will provide one precinct with the cameras at a time.
Snohomish County also proposed a motion to purchase 340 body-worn cameras for county deputies and detectives this week. The proposed Motion will now be considered by the Snohomish County Council.
According to a 2020 KING 5 investigation, more than 60% of Washington state law enforcement agencies have no camera systems to document police officers’ and sheriff's deputies’ interactions with the public.
The 2020 investigation showed the main reason that over half of Washington law enforcement agencies don't have body cameras is due to the cost of the devices and extra staff needed to process public record requests. the study found that very few officers or deputies philosophically objected to the use of body cameras in law enforcement.
At least four states—Connecticut, Nevada, South Carolina, and California—have enacted laws that require some officers and deputies to use body-worn cameras, according to 2018 data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, which maintains a database of body camera laws across the country.
The proposed funding will now be voted on by the House. Officials said they hope to have the funding secured by Sept. 30 of this year.
Watch the full briefing below: