Washington state law requires all known videos by police to be kept for 90 days, but Seattle Police capture dash video from all patrol cruisers and automatically dump it 3-5 days later.
Seattle activist Tim Clemans requested video from the fail-safe dash cam video recording system implemented by private contractor COBAN.
His request was denied.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole claimed in a lengthy letter, packed with legal jargon which you can see below, that Seattle PD would have to take cars out of service to retrieve the videos, which was clearly written by the department’s legal team.
“I think there’s a reasonable way to preserve fail-safe video while not taking vehicles out of service: Remote into the car computer as admin and change the file permissions to prevent the dashcam software from deleting the video(s) requested,” said Clemans on his blog.
Based on Chief O’Toole’s three page reply, it seems to indicate that Seattle Police Department definitely knows this video is being recorded, is not making any efforts to retrieve or store the videos as indicated by state law (see page 46) for at least 90 days and for the life of any criminal case.
O’Toole began her law enforcement with the Massachusetts State Police in the 1990s, an era which caused the department featured in movies like 2015’s factual account called Black Mass, which highlighted that department’s troubles with infamous gangster Whitey Bulger as well as the fictional account based on the same in 2006 Oscar winner The Departed.
COBAN employees explain that their system is always recording at minute 3:47 of the video below, and it’s probably not very difficult to withdraw video records from the system they call a “partner” always watching for a cop patrolling alone. COBAN also mentions that their dash cam’s fail safe records when sirens are not active so an officers who, for example runs a red light, could be caught on video anyways if the report happens quickly.
“With COBAN’s help figure out best way to get it to the server. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a way for admins or COBAN to use the Coban software to get a video without taking a car out of service,” said the exasperated Tim Clemans.
It’s unclear what Clemans’ next step will be, but it seems inevitable that Seattle PD’s non-compliance with the law is sure to wind up in a courtroom costing taxpayers money to defend their own police department’s law breaking activities.