Police in Seattle are under scrutiny after creating a YouTube channel exclusively featuring video captured from police body cameras. The move raises a number of privacy concerns, but department officials say that uploading footage captured on the street will help build trust with the community by making police activity more transparent.
The Seattle Police Department has been uploading video to its SPD BodyWornVideo YouTube channel for days, with almost all of the current video taken by officers Jan. 19, at a protest rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Duration varies from just a few seconds to more than a half-hour per video, though in each case the footage has been blurred and the audio removed.
Tim Clemans, the computer programmer charged with redacting any identifying information from the video, told Ars Technica that many people are uncomfortable with the idea of themselves, identity concealed or not, appearing on YouTube. “I'm having to work with people who don't want this released, period. There's a number of people trying to put up every obstacle possible,” he told the tech news site.
The department redacts more information than is required under Washington state law, Clemans said. “The department does not want to post raw video on its YouTube channel. It fears a privacy controversy.”
The channel is also a response to the overwhelming number of public records requests for which the Seattle police said it does not have the staff to fulfill.
This comes only months after the Obama administration announced a new initiative that would help state and local police buy body camera equipment in an attempt to increase transparency following a number of controversial police shootings. The latest incident involves the shooting of a homeless man over the weekend by police in Los Angeles. The confrontation was reportedly captured on at least one LAPD body cam.
Police supporters have touted the programs as an effective way to prove that many complaints of police abuse are baseless. Others see body cameras as a way of increasing police accountability. Here’s a video that shows footage from the SPD channel.