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Body Cameras

Tacoma Police to Launch Body-Worn Cameras in January 2021

Beginning on January 4, 2021 more than 80 officers in all sectors and on all shifts will be issued body worn cameras. Phased deployment of the cameras is expected to be completed by March 2021.

 

Officers will be required to activate the recording function of the body worn camera when they engage with the public in their law enforcement capacity. 

 

 

Our Program Will Be Responsive and Transparent

We have been researching and reviewing policies, practices and technologies to ensure that Tacoma implements a system that is responsive and transparent. Our program will include policies that address:

  • Washington State Legislative requirements
  • Requirement to wear BWC
  • When to activate camera
  • When officers can review BWC footage (i.e. before writing a report)
  • When and how to download recordings
  • Who has access to recording after download
  • When supervisors can or should review footage (i.e. complaints)
  • Unauthorized use
  • Public disclosure and redaction process
  • How to protect crime victim and specifically domestic violence victims' rights

 

Tacoma Police Body Worn Camera Procedures

 

Overview of the Program

 

Recording Process

 

Video Uploading

 

Video Review and Redaction

 

Requesting a Video

 

Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras

Police worn body cameras have been shown to provide several benefits, including:

  • Improve accountability
  • Improve evidentiary outcomes
  • Enhance the safety of, and improve interactions between, officers and the community 

Making a Public Disclosure Request

Please visit the Request a City Record on the City’s website to make a request for copies of the videos, however please keep the following in mind as you make your request:

 

Per RCW 42.56.240(14) a request must include:

  • The name of a person or persons involved in the incident; 
  • The incident or case number;
  • The date, time, and location of the incident or incidents; or
  • The identification of a law enforcement or corrections officer involved in the incident or incidents.

Washington law does limit disclosure of body-worn videos in certain circumstances (see RCW. 42.56.240(14) for detail), such as when a video:

  • Contains images of any areas of a medical facility, counseling, or therapeutic program office;
  • Contains information that meets the definition of protected health information;
  • Contains images of the interior of a place of residence where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy;
  • Contains images defined in the RCW as "intimate," i.e., nudity, partial nudity, sexually explicit content;
  • Contains images of an identifiable minor;
  • Contains images of a deceased person;
  • Contains the identity or communications from a victim or witness of an incident involving domestic violence or sexual assault; or
  • Contains images from an incident where a domestic violence or sexual assault victim or witness indicates a desire for non-disclosure of their recorded identity or communications.

In the above scenarios, the Public Records Office may release the video with the relevant video/audio redacted (blurred or blocked out) and/or audio redacted (sound removed). If none of the above scenarios exist, the video may be released un-redacted, depending on whether the victim has requested non-disclosure.

 

Public Disclosure of Video May Have a Redaction Fee

Washington law allows local law enforcement agencies to charge for reasonable costs for redacting video (see RCW 42.56.240(14) for detail). 

 

Effective January 01, 2021, bodycam requests will be subject to a $0.49/minute redaction fee in accordance with RCW 42.56.240(14).

 

Charges will not be levied if the request comes from:

  • A person directly involved in a recorded incident and their attorney;
  • A person or his or her attorney who requests a body worn camera recording relevant to a criminal case involving that person;
  • Executive Directors from with the Washington State Commission on African-American Affairs, Asian-Pacific Affairs, or Hispanic Affairs;
  • Attorneys who represents a person in a potential or existing civil cause of action involving the denial of civil rights under the federal or state constitution, or a violation of a United States Department of Justice settlement agreement and explain the relevancy of the requested video.

Washington law also allows local law enforcement agencies to charge for actual cost of copying video (see RCW 42.56.120 for detail).

 

 

Get More Information on Our BWC Program

During the research and review period, we have also provided background and timeline information, our vendor evaluation process, how we will implement and deploy our program and things we needed to consider to the Tacoma City Council during City Council Study Sessions. Here are the recent presentations that were shared with the City Council on BWC:

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are body worn cameras?

Police worn body cameras are part of officers’ uniforms that they wear to record interactions, both video and audio, with the public in their law enforcement capacity.

 

What are the technical specifications of cameras will Tacoma Police Officers wear?

Tacoma Police Department uses the Axon Body 3, which is manufactured by Axon. The Axon Body 3 provides:

  • 146 degree angle of view facing out from the chest of the officer
  • Records both audio and video
  • 720p at a 30FPS frame rate
  • Stores up to 26 hours of video
  • Battery life of 14 hours according to the manufacturer

 

When will body worn cameras be used by Tacoma Police Officers?

All uniformed officers assigned to a Patrol or Community Oriented Policing function will wear cameras on duty by March 2021. Beginning January 4, 2021, deployment will begin with more than 80 officers on all shifts and all sectors.

The City implemented an advanced deployment on December 14, 2020, which allowed training officers the opportunity to test and evaluate the system for operation and effectiveness ahead of the full deployment.

 

Will all officers, including detectives and specialty unit be required to wear a camera?

At this time, only officers working in a uniformed capacity who are trained on and issued a Body Worn Camera System will wear a Body Worn Camera.

 

 

What type of training do department members receive?

Officers will be trained on the basic use of the camera to include configuration of the camera system itself, the uploading of videos as evidence, and the viewing of videos.

When will officers be required to turn their cameras on?

Officers will be required to turn on their cameras as soon as they start their shifts. Officers will be required to activate the recording function of the body worn camera anytime they engage with the public in their law enforcement capacity.

 

 

Are the cameras capable of automatically starting when gunfire is heard?

The manufacturer is in the beta testing process for gunshot detection, at this time the system is not reliable. Tacoma Police Department has disabled this capability. If /when this technology becomes reliable, the Tacoma Police Department will revisit that capability.

 

 

Will all interactions between officers and community members be recorded?

Officers will be required to activate the recording function of the body worn camera anytime they engage with the public in their law enforcement capacity.

However, there are several instances where officers have the discretion not to record, all of which are in place to protect the privacy and dignity of the community or sensitive law enforcement information.

 

 

What happens if I don’t want/refuse to have an officer record me?

Washington State law does not recognize citizen interactions with Law Enforcement Officers as private/privileged. However, if a community member requests not to be recorded, it is at the discretion of the individual officer if they wish to grant such request.

 

 

What will happen if an officer fails to turn on their cameras?

After a short amnesty/training phase, all officers are subject to discipline if they intentionally fail to activate the recording function of the body worn camera system. If there is a reasonable explanation as to why there was no activation that will be taken into account.

 

 

What happens if an officer turns on their camera “late” during an event?

Officers are required to activate their cameras as soon as possible for every law enforcement related contact while on duty. If an officer does not immediately activate their camera, the Body Worn Camera system is buffering and backs up the video (no audio) recording to thirty seconds prior to the officer activating the recording function.

 

 

What will be shown on the video if I request it, will it be from the time the officer steps out of his vehicle until he leaves?

While the video taken by the officer should contain the entire contact during the incident, prior to public release, some information may be redacted from the video for privacy and safety reasons, such as child victims, confidential informants, and names and addresses of witnesses, etc. Please see FAQ below labeled “How do I make a Public Disclosure Request (PDR) for a copy of the video?”

 

 

What will happen if the camera malfunctions?

In the event of a camera malfunction or damage prior to upload, the camera is shipped to the manufacturer for repair, video retrieval, and upload of remaining data.

 

 

Will officers be required to upload their cameras after every shift?

Officers are required to upload video from their camera at least once during their shift and as soon as practical after any critical incident.

 

 

What will happen if there is an error during the upload of a video?

In the event of a camera malfunction during the upload or it is damaged prior to upload, the camera will be sent to the manufacturer for repair, video retrieval, and upload of remaining data.

 

 

How long will the video be kept/stored before it is erased?

During the implementation phase of the Body Worn Camera Program, all Body Worn Camera video will be retained for a minimum of 12 months. After the implementation phase, it is the intention of the City to retain Body Worn Camera Video in accordance with applicable Washington State records retention schedule and City of Tacoma policy.

 

 

Can I view the video at the time of the incident?

No, the system does not allow for instant viewing of the video, however you may file a public records request to obtain a copy of the video as explained below.

 

 

How will the recorded videos be used and reviewed?

The Tacoma Police Department will review videos for investigative purposes, administrative purposes, and training purposes. The reviewing of videos must have a specific purpose, and at no time will videos be randomly reviewed.

Officer are allowed to review their own video prior to writing their reports. Officers are not required to review every video.

Body Worn Camera Video will not be reviewed for the purpose of performance evaluation. If there is a specific complaint regarding a specific officer, supervisors can review video regarding that specific event in the performance of investigating the specific complaint.

 

 

How do I make a Public Disclosure Request (PDR) for a copy of the video?

Please visit the Request a City Record on the City’s website to make a request for copies of the videos, however please keep the following in mind as you make your request:


Per RCW 42.56.240(14) a request must include:

  • The name of a person or persons involved in the incident; 
  • The incident or case number;
  • The date, time, and location of the incident or incidents; or
  • The identification of a law enforcement or corrections officer involved in the incident or incidents.

Washington law does limit disclosure of body-worn videos in certain circumstances (see RCW. 42.56.240(14) for detail), such as when a video:

  • Contains images of any areas of a medical facility, counseling, or therapeutic program office;
  • Contains information that meets the definition of protected health information;
  • Contains images of the interior of a place of residence where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy;
  • Contains images defined in the RCW as "intimate," i.e., nudity, partial nudity, sexually explicit content;
  • Contains images of an identifiable minor;
  • Contains images of a deceased person;
  • Contains the identity or communications from a victim or witness of an incident involving domestic violence or sexual assault; or
  • Contains images from an incident where a domestic violence or sexual assault victim or witness indicates a desire for non-disclosure of their recorded identity or communications.

In the above scenarios, the Public Records Office may release the video with the relevant video/audio redacted (blurred or blocked out) and/or audio redacted (sound removed). If none of the above scenarios exist, the video may be released un-redacted, depending on whether the victim has requested non-disclosure.

 


What are the fees for a PDR of the video?

Washington law allows local law enforcement agencies to charge for reasonable costs for redacting video (see RCW 42.56.240(14) for detail). Effective January 01, 2021, bodycam requests will be subject to a $0.49/minute redaction fee in accordance with RCW 42.56.240(14).

 

Charges will not be levied if the request comes from:

  • A person directly involved in a recorded incident and their attorney;
  • A person or his or her attorney who requests a body worn camera recording relevant to a criminal case involving that person;
  • Executive Directors from with the Washington State Commission on African-American Affairs, Asian-Pacific Affairs, or Hispanic Affairs;
  • Attorneys who represents a person in a potential or existing civil cause of action involving the denial of civil rights under the federal or state constitution, or a violation of a United States Department of Justice settlement agreement and explain the relevancy of the requested video.

Washington law also allows local law enforcement agencies to charge for actual cost of copying video (see RCW 42.56.120 for detail).

 


If there is more than one officer that responds to a call, will I have to request the video from each individual officer? Will the fees for the PDR then go up?

If a request for a particular incident has more than one officer responding to a call, the City will collect the videos from all the officers involved in that incident for release. The fee charge is for reasonable costs for redacting video will be subject to a $0.49/minute redaction fee in accordance with RCW 42.56.240(14).