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King County sheriff’s deputies may soon be wearing body cameras if a new measure introduced this week is approved.

Councilmember Dave Upthegrove has proposed a pilot program for the King County Sheriff’s Office that would require officers to use body-worn cameras.

“I introduced the measure because I believe that body cameras on law enforcement can improve transparency and accountability and help improve community trust in law enforcement,” Upthegrove told GeekWire today.

Dave Upthegrove.
Dave Upthegrove.

The proposal, which was referred to committee on Monday and will likely be taken up by the end of this year, calls for the pilot project and also requests that a Task Force of stakeholders be established to develop policy recommendations related to privacy, disclosure and personnel issues.

Both projects could be implemented by next summer, Upthegrove said. He added that the recent Ferguson protests “highlighted the need and importance of strengthening relationships between the law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

“I believe body cameras can help build public trust, protect officers, and serve the public interest,” Upthegrove noted.

Several police departments have already implemented the use of body-worn cameras made by companies like Seattle-based Vievu, while the Obama administration recently noted its support for the devices. On our GeekWire radio show, we recently discussed police using the new technology with Evidence.com General Manager Marcus Womack, who explained how his company’s cloud-based system and body cameras create accountability for interactions between police officers and citizens.

The Seattle Police Department actually planned on its own pilot program, but delayed it back in May due to privacy concerns. The main worry dealt with a Washington state law that prohibits recording conversations in a private residence without permission, expect for emergency responders.

Whether or not body-worn cameras used by police officers fall into that realm has yet to be decided, so the SPD elected to wait until the state attorney general’s office offers up an opinion. We’ve contacted the SPD on the status of the pilot program and will update this post when we hear back.

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