Tuesday , September 29 2020

Seattle will order the police to turn on body cameras during protests despite privacy concerns

An Axon Body 3 camera on a police officer. (Axon photo)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan plans to enact an executive ordinance Monday asking police to turn on their body cameras during public protests. This has been demanded by some demonstrators in recent weeks, despite concerns from civil rights groups.

The Seattle Police Department has been wearing body-worn cameras since 2017. However, a longstanding privacy policy for peaceful demonstrators prevented officials from using cameras during demonstrations in the past two weeks.

Related topics: As protests spread across the country, mobile video creates a mosaic of violence and a tool for change

Civil rights groups such as the ACLU fear that body cameras could make it easier for the police to track down and target demonstrators, especially in color communities where surveillance has taken place in the past.

Durkan said she would work with the ACLU, city council, and other regulatory and civil rights organizations "to develop policies that are real and will not be reduced by a lawsuit." It announced executive orders and other concessions to demonstrators who called for an end to police violence in a series of tweets on Sunday.

Police agencies across the country have used body cameras as a tool to create transparency and trust in communities in recent years.

However, the data on their effectiveness are at best mixed.

Last year the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted an experiment where a randomly assigned part of more than 2,000 officers in Washington, DC received body cameras for a period of seven months. The results showed that the cameras did not significantly change police behavior over a range of results, including complaints and violence.

A one year study Around 400 Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers reported a 37% reduction in violent complaints against officers wearing body cameras.

When George Floyd died, it was not police cameras, but cell phone and security shots that exposed the behavior of the four Minnesota police officers involved. These recordings triggered the racial justice movement that has been underway for two weeks. The cameras in each demonstrator's pockets have played a major role in building and maintaining the momentum. It remains to be seen whether the Seattle PD body cameras will change the dynamics.

In addition to the new body camera policy, Durkan announced plans to launch an independent state prosecutor's office to investigate officers who use lethal violence. Durkan promised to spend at least $ 100 million on community programs to invest in blacks and black-owned companies.

The announcements came after a weekend marked by violence against demonstrators, an obvious departure from several days of de-escalation last week. A man tried to drive a car into a crowd of demonstrators in Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle on Sunday. The driver shot a demonstrator before running to a number of police officers who arrested him. The Seattle Times reports. The wounded man was shot in the arm and given medical care.

Several reports and videos also showed that the Seattle police used gas on Saturday and Sunday to disperse the crowd, although Durkan promised on Friday that tear gas would not be used for demonstrators for at least 30 days.

About Corrie Donnelly

Corrie Donnelly is a computer engineer originally born in Germany. He was writing articles about technology and computer games for websites.

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