Digital recording cameras will be mounted in all of Seattle’s 223 patrol cars, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Seattle is alone in the state of including a wireless capability that enables officers to download images from their patrol cars directly to the precincts. “The city of Seattle really wanted the wireless piece of it,” said Mike Andritch of the Olympia office of IBM, which developed the software.
Begun as a pilot project in 2001 in response to community concerns about police accountability, the city now has outfitted 80 patrol cars with digital cameras. Fifteen additional digital cameras are expected to be installed early next year at a cost of about $5,000 per camera. Part of the cost is being borne by federal funds. Mayor Greg Nickels said the program began as a way to address the distrust of police that some in the community have. The cameras, he said, should help build trust by providing what he called “objective evidence” of police encounters with residents. City Attorney Tom Carr said the recordings have helped resolve hundreds of cases, particularly those involving drunk drivers. “Generally, we send out the tape and we get a guilty plea,” Carr said. Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said an added benefit is that cameras in patrol cars may have a deterrent effect, prompting someone considering harming an officer to think twice, knowing the action is being captured by a camera.