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Public gets up-close look at new Seattle Police body cameras

By Tammy Mutasa

Officials said Seattle Police officers in the West Precinct are wearing and using their body cameras days ahead of schedule.

On Thursday night, neighbors got a close up look of the body cameras that officers will be wearing on the streets while protecting their neighborhoods.

“With the camera you can record the interaction between an officer and the public, and provide that level of transparency,” said Nick Zajchowski, who is overseeing the Seattle Police Department body camera program.

Officers explained to neighbors how the cameras work, when officers start and stop recording, and when officers do not record or have the discretion to record the body cameras.

Police said they could retain the video for a minimum for three years and six months, depending on the case and crime.

At the East Precinct community crime meeting, some neighbors still had questions about their privacy.

“I’m still undecided about body cameras, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel,” said neighbor and community leader Troy Meyers. “There are some cases where you just don’t want video of you or your loved one out there for the public to see especially if it’s on the worst days of your life.”

Officers told neighbors it’s a tough balance between privacy and transparency, but they’ll have to be vigilant when releasing information that state and federal law says is private.

Officers explained they do not record in restrooms, jails, interiors of medical, mental health, counseling or therapeutic facilities. Officers said they also do not record a resident or if someone who has the right to be in a home directs an officer to turn off a camera before entering a private residence, unless a crime is in progress or officers have a warrant.

Officers asked neighbors to come back in about six months to hear their suggestions on the body camera program.

“That balance between privacy and transparency is, it’s tough,” Zajchowski said.

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