Events such as the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, growing
officer safety concerns, and divergent
accounts of officer-involved shootings,
have fueled an interest in the use of
police body-worn cameras (BWC).
These officer-activated cameras clip
to an officer’s uniform and can record
audio and video of their interactions
with the public.
A 2012 study of the Rialto, California, Police Department found that
BWC decreased the number of police
misconduct claims by 87% and reduced
the number of times officers used force
by 59% compared to the previous year. 1
These findings suggest that the use
of BWC may significantly improve
police-citizen interactions and avoid
costly judgments in misconduct cases. While potential improvements to
government accountability and officer
safety are significant, so are potential
privacy concerns. As technology available to governments evolves, so does
its potential to invade privacy in ways
never imagined by the drafters of the
Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, or Article I, Section 7 of the
Washington State Constitution.
Drafting BWC legislation that protects privacy rights, preserves evidence,
and fosters government accountability is no small feat. In March 2016, the
Washington State Legislature passed
Engrossed House Bill (EHB) 2362: con-cering law enforcement and correction
officers video and sound recordings.
EHB 2362 sets rules on what BWC footage is private under the Public Records
Act, establishes a task force to research
best practices, and encourages police
departments to develop BWC policies.
TO SEE OR
NOT TO SEE
by Sheri Pewitt
Law Enforcement Use
of Body-Worn Cameras