Seattle police officers start wearing body cameras

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s executive order requiring all Seattle bicycle patrol officers to be equipped with body cameras began on July 22nd.

“Body cameras improve behavior and de-escalation on both sides of the camera,” said Mayor Murray. “We have taken far too long to fully implement the body camera program due to legislative gridlock—it is past time to move forward. This order will get cameras on officers on the street, so we know what happens during interactions with the public. This level of accountability is good for both officers and the public, and will help build trust in a time where the community, particularly the African American community, is hurting,” said Murray.

A member of the African American community, Frances Bowman says the body cameras are a welcome step into healing the relationship between police and the community.

“I think it’ll give the community some comfort. There are too many people that are dying and not enough being done about it, and with the transparency of the body cameras we will be able to at least know what we’re dealing with and then move forward,” said Bowman.

Murray says the body cameras will help hold police officers accountable and provide a public record for the community.

“We can no longer depress Seattle of this important tool to create a more detailed record of what happens during critical instances,” said Murray.

But for the vice president of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, sergeant Richard O’Neil, he says body cameras would not have prevented the death of Charleena Lyles in June 2017 when she was shot by Seattle Police officers in her apartment.

In an op-ed piece O’Neil writes in part, “Body cameras would not have prevented, assisted, or hindered that incident. Body cameras are not the end all be all as they are being portrayed by some,” says O’Neil.

Many Seattleites don’t see a downside to body cameras.

“Everyone should be held accountable for how they treat each other, for how they perceive each other and the actions they put against each other,” said David Skenes who is in support of body cameras on Seattle Police Officers.

“I like that our interaction is completely recorded, there’s no reason for him to be able to say I did something, or for me to say I did something,” said Ryan Linder, a Seattleite also in support of body cameras on officers.

Mayor Murray’s executive order adds Seattle to a list of major cities like Oakland, Denver, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Detroit, and localities like Spokane that currently have cameras on officers.

The Seattle west precinct serves the Downtown Business District, Waterfront, International District, Pioneer Square, Belltown, Queen Anne, West Edge, SoDo, Westlake, Eastlake, Seattle Center, Denny Triangle, Magnolia, South Lake Union.