Body cameras, new uniforms coming to Seattle Police

Today, Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole outlined the department’s new pilot project on body-worn cameras, as well as unveiled the new uniforms officers will be wearing as they police Seattle streets.

“Body cameras have been a long-time coming and they are finally here,” said Murray. “This tool will improve community policing and support accountability for our officers. Above all, they will make our neighborhoods safer.”

“Body cameras will be a game changer, a progressive means to improve public safety, police accountability, transparency, and trust with the community,” said Seattle Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee.

The department’s East Precinct will train 12 officers in the use of the body cameras. Field deployments will begin next week. The department will use the trials to decide between two technologies, as well as refine data retention and public disclosure processes.

The cameras will help document arrests and support convictions when crimes have been committed. They will not be used where reasonable people can assume a right to privacy — unless there’s suspicion a crime is being committed or when it’s material to a criminal investigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Community Police Commission provided significant input as the department developed the policy that will govern the use of the cameras.

Research has found that departments using such cameras have experienced a decline in assaults on officers. But they have also been shown to reduce the need for officers to use force.

Today, the department is also unveiling the new uniforms officers will wear on patrol, which includes a new patch and emblem for the department featuring Chief Seattle. This is the first full uniform update for patrol officers in 52 years.

“These new uniforms look very professional,” said Murray. “It’s been decades since the uniforms have been updated, so we’re overdue.”

Officers will begin wearing the new uniform in January, with department-wide implementation by March.

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