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Seattle Police Department delays body camera experiment over privacy concerns

Seattle Police Officers won’t be wearing body cameras anytime soon, after the department delayed a pilot program over privacy concerns.

The department had planned to outfit about a dozen officers with the cameras that would record both video and audio. But Crosscut reports the city attorney’s office has recommended the department delay implementation until at least the state attorney general can issue an opinion on the matter.

State law currently prohibits the recording of conversations without a person’s permission. While there are some exceptions for emergency workers, there are no specific guidelines for body cameras.

State Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, requested the opinion from the Washington state attorney general’s office at the request of the Spokane City Council, which last fall approved the purchase of 220 police body cameras.

The Seattle Police Department refused to comment on the delay at the request of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office, Detective Renee Witt said Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington opposes the use of body cameras because of privacy concerns unless state law is changed.

Privacy rights advocates worry the body cameras could lead to the recording of audio and video in people’s homes without their permission.

“There needs to be full notification and consent (for recording,)” said Jennifer Shaw, Deputy Director for the ACLU of Washington. “But overall, we would support these recording devices for the purposes of police accountability.”

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