Seattle Tamps Down Police Body Cam Expectations

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If a police officer with a body camera runs, the device goes “crazy.” If the officer is wearing the camera as eyewear, “It goes where your head is looking,” said Nick Zajchowski, manager of the Seattle Police Department’s body-worn video program. As officials iron out the plan to outfit 850 officers with the cameras, they want to “tamp down” expectations of the video quality, Zajchkowski said. The footage won’t always show a clear depiction of what’s happening, reports the Seattle Times. “In every instance, you’re not going to have a perfect piece of video that shows the scene with clarity, and you can hear the sound, and you can see what’s happening,” Zajchowski said. “The video is not going to be up to the par that people expect for a variety of reasons, but it’s out of our control.”

He is leading a team of nine staff members to develop the body-camera plan for which city officials have set aside nearly $2 million. About 15 or 20 officers will test the chosen devices later this year, building on the department’s pilot project. City officials were hoping to launch the project earlier, but project managers are still figuring out how to answer public-disclosure requests for the cameras’ footage and how the new video will impact the city’s justice system. With the new form of evidence, local prosecutors are gearing up for significant increases in their workload. “It’s one of those things that you want to get right,” Zaj­­chowski said. “It’s much more complex than just sticking a camera on somebody.”

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