The Seattle Police Department thought is was a good idea to refuse to release dash cam video to a Seattle-based television station.
Now the police department will foot the bill on a $174,000 settlement to KOMO-TV.
KOMO-TV made a slew of public records request of dash cam video that were suspected of excessive force by Seattle police. But instead of following public records law, the Seattle Police Department used a frivolous statute to deny a records request of the videos in question.
But KOMO-TV wasn’t buying it, and filed suit immediately.
The Seattle State Supreme Court made a ruling that police videos can’t be denied from public record unless it is part of an on-going criminal investigation.
The Seattle Police Department is known for denying records request on the premise of records being non-existent. For example, the police department told KOMO-TV that there were no response records for digital in-car video and audio recordings.
Their premise for denials are a clear violation of public records law, because the records did exist.
After a lengthy litigation process, the Seattle Police Department finally agreed to settle the lawsuit for a whopping $174,000.
Seattle public records guru, Tim Clemans mentioned the following exclusively to PINAC:
“I wish the penalty had been much higher. A lot of videos responsive to the KOMO request were destroyed. Without a extremely high penalty agencies are more likely to violate the act. This lawsuit is extremely important because not only did it establish that the videos are public but that so are databases and partial possible responses to requests must be given.”
A video related to the KOMO-TV request actually launched a criminal investigation into the officers’ on scene use of force.
Eulogia Morales Cayetano sued the police department over the physical assault she and her family endured in the video, the case was eventually settled by the city for $25,000.
If violating public records law isn’t bad enough; the Seattle Police Department has also been at the center of a federal probe by the Department of Justice regarding its’ use of force policy.
The probe revealed that Seattle police “routinely used unconstitutional levels of force and may have engaged in biased policing.”
The Department of Justice reported that most of the aforementioned involved police preying on people of color and the mentally ill.
As a result of the probe the Seattle Police Department was forced to revamp officer training ranging from weapons, use of force, and conflict deescalation,