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Wash. A.G.: Cops Don't Need Permission To Record, Even In Your Home

Jim Mone
AP Photo
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Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says police don't need permission to record their interactions with citizens using cameras worn on their uniforms.

In an opinion issued Monday, Ferguson says interactions with on-duty police are presumed to be public, and therefore officers are under no obligation to turn off the cameras if people object to being recorded — even if the conversation is being recorded in someone's home.

Ferguson issued the nonbinding legal opinion in response to a request from state Sen. Andy Billig of Spokane. Billig had asked the attorney general's office several questions about whether the use of the body cameras might run afoul of the state's Privacy Act, which bars the recording of most private conversations without the consent of all parties.

The opinion also makes clear that the recordings must be preserved pursuant to the state Public Records Act.

Several cities in Washington have started or plan to start outfitting officers with the body cameras, but some have wrestled with issues such as whether to turn the cameras off inside homes.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.