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Commission: Seattle violated state bargaining laws with body cam order

Mayor Murray signs an executive order in July 2017 stating Seattle police should start phasing in body cams. (City of Seattle)

Seattle violated state bargaining laws when it forced its police department to start using body cams this summer, according to an initial finding by the state’s employment relations commission.

“The State of Washington Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) issued a preliminary ruling in favor of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild’s complaint that the City of Seattle violated state bargaining laws by implementing the Body Worn Video Program,” the Guild stated in a press release Wednesday.

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order in July forcing the police department to start phasing in body cameras, starting with bike patrols. But the police officer’s guild called foul on that order and filed a complaint with PERC.

“…it appears that unfair labor practice violations could be found,” the initial PERC ruling states.

Wednesday’s initial ruling provides the City of Seattle 21 days to respond. The city can admit, deny, or explain its side of the story. PERC will then appoint an examiner to process the case further.

Mayor Murray’s body cam order came shortly after the fatal officer-involved shooting of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four. Murray argued that body cams would have been helpful to determine what exactly happened when police responded to Lyles’ apartment. Lyles called 911 to report a burglary. She confronted police with a knife and they fired upon her.

There is dash cam video of the incident, but that perspective is limited to the view of the patrol car while audio of the incident can be heard.

The police guild notes that it is not opposed to the body cam program, rather it would like to have a say in the matter through the bargaining process.

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