King County Sheriff’s Office takes first steps toward body cameras

KING COUNTY, Wash. –  Seattle’s bike patrol officers in the West Precinct were outfitted with body cameras over the weekend as part of Mayor Ed Murray’s executive order signed last week.

Within 48 hours of the roll out, the King County Sheriff began the steps to outfit his department with body cameras.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart said he is just as fed up as Mayor Murray with the slow-moving process to get cameras. He said the time to wait is over, and took the first steps to ensure it.

“In ten years I think every cop in the country is going to be wearing a body camera. I think this is really how fast this is moving,” said Sheriff Urquhart. “This needs to happen, the public is demanding that it happen, so I am going to make sure that it does.”

Urquhart said the urgency for body cameras comes from the two officer-involved shooting deaths this summer; Charleena Lyles by Seattle Police officers and Tommy Le by King County Sheriff’s deputies.

Urquhart called cameras the accountability tool needed and demanded in today’s day and age. The main reason he said his department doesn’t already have them, is because of the costly and time-consuming nature of public records requests. It’s the same reason Tacoma Police and Snohomish County Sheriff’s office cite for not implementing the technology.

“We’ll probably get one for all of our department for our body camera footage,” he said. Legally, the department will have to comply with the request, but they will also need to protect the public’s privacy.

Everything from the inside of a home, to the face of a child or crime victim will need to be blurred, before the request can be published. For example, a minute-long video can take hours to edit.

“The public is tired of waiting. I can give all the excuses in the world as to why they are expensive for us. The public isn’t buying that anymore,” said Urquhart.

Seattle is protected from over reaching blanket requests through a legal loophole that was passed by the state legislature, there’s hope that every Washington law enforcement agency would be protected in 2019 when the 30-year-old disclosure law sunsets. It’s right around the same time that Urquhart said he hopes to have his department outfitted.

“I suspect it will take a year,” he said. “Maybe we can do it in less.”