The Seattle Police Department is preparing to release large amounts of video from patrol car cameras and it needs your help in doing so.
The SPD is holding its first-ever hackathon on Dec. 19 and is asking developers to create software that quickly redacts faces, audio, and/or license plates from millions of videos on its servers in order to stay within Washington’s privacy laws.
“With 1,612,554 videos already on our servers — and more on the way through our upcoming body cam pilot program — our department is looking for a better, faster way redact those videos and make them accessible as public records,” the SPD wrote. “This painstaking redaction process takes a significant amount of time, severely limiting the speed at which SPD can make video recordings available.”
The SPD is also preparing to use body-worn cameras soon, so it will have even more video footage on hand in the near future. The department wants to make that footage accessible to the public, but wants to figure out how to efficiently redact or blur out images that shouldn’t be available to anyone based on existing privacy laws.
“We want to be transparent, but also make sure we adhere to the public disclosure laws in the State of Washington,” Mike Wagers, chief operating officer with the Seattle Police Department, told GeekWire in September.
Some videos and audio from other municipalities that have complied with the requests are published on YouTube, under an anonymous Police Video Requests account. The channel has been posting content since October and includes videos from the Seattle, Bellingham and Renton police departments.
The hackathon is taking place just a few weeks after an anonymous computer programmer submitted a massive series of public records requests, including one for all of the videos produced by patrol car cameras. The SPD made a deal with the man to publicly release videos produced by dashboard- and body-mounted cameras.
The SPD is only allowing the 25 people to the hackathon. You can sign up here.