City official wants body cams on Seattle police officerson January 20, 2011 @ 12:34 pm (Updated: 1:30 pm - 3/28/11 )
A member of Seattle's City Council says it's time for the city's police officers to be outfitted with body cameras.
"Many major cities such as San Joes, Oakland, Union, Calif. have purchased cameras, or are using cameras and they've been very effective," says Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell. "Time and time again we can point to examples where this helps both the officer and citizens when they have complaints against the officer."
Harrell tells KIRO Radio's Ross and Burbank that body cams would have provided a useful resource in some notable Seattle incidents.
"In the John Williams shooting for example, all of these critical questions that we're asking this jury to answer. 'Was the knife open when officer Birk shot him?' Well they weren't there, so now what do they do? They have to rely on the testimony of people that were standing a good distance away, and then they just have to read facts into what they're hearing."
The real case for body cams is that they can provide a recorded account of what actually occurred.
"A good case in Arkansas, for example, in 2009, it was a body mounted camera that actually exonerated an officer who used deadly force when approaching a man that had a gun. The man refused nine times to drop the gun and unfortunately the officer had to shoot him, and the video was the evidence," says Harrell. "This kind of technology then saves us thousands and thousands if not millions of dollars when we have to do these very extensive investigations."
Harrell says the body cams are also cheaper than the in-car cams currently posted in every Seattle police vehicle. "The digital in-car video, we have them in all 250 cars, that costs $5,000. The body mounted camera costs $900 and it doubles to serve that same function, you can take it off and put it on the dashboard. There's incredible savings."
Harrell says many city officials are open to the idea, and that they currently have about four body cams on officers out in the field.
For officers, or those in the community that don't like the idea of being recorded, he says, it's really a condition we should all be used to at this point.
"In 2011, we're being recorded all the time. If we walk in front of the police car, we are being recorded. Almost every phone is equipped with a camera. So for us to now resist in 2011 [...] I think we just have to wake up."
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