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Why Equipping Police With Body Cameras Is Not As Easy As It Seems

File photo of a police officer equppied with a body camera.
U.S. Department of Defense
File photo of a police officer equppied with a body camera.

It seems so simple. Equip police officers with body cameras to record their interactions with the public. But it turns out it’s actually quite complicated.

A legislative task force meets Tuesday in an ongoing effort to try to figure it out.

Washington state has a temporary law governing the use of police body cameras. That law expires in 2019. Democratic State Rep. Drew Hansen co-chairs Washington’s task force on the Use of Body Worn Cameras. He said privacy is his number one concern.

“We need to have some reasonable privacy protections so that every possible sensitive interaction in people’s lives doesn’t just go up on YouTube for everyone to gawk at,” Hansen said.

Washington’s temporary law exempts body cam video from disclosure if “essential” to protect a person’s right to privacy. It also requires police departments that deploy the cameras to establish policies for how officers use them.

Meanwhile the task force is supposed to issue a final report to the legislature this December. From there lawmakers will have to figure out if there’s consensus to pass a permanent law. 

Copyright 2017 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Austin Jenkins
Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."