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Why Equipping Police With Body Cameras Is Not As Easy As It Seems

File photo of a police officer equppied with a body camera.

File photo of a police officer equppied with a body camera.

U.S. Department of Defense

It seems so simple. Equip police officers with body cameras to record their interactions with the public. But it turns out it’s actually quite complicated.

A legislative task force meets Tuesday in an ongoing effort to try to figure it out.

Washington state has a temporary law governing the use of police body cameras. That law expires in 2019. Democratic State Rep. Drew Hansen co-chairs Washington’s task force on the Use of Body Worn Cameras. He said privacy is his No. 1 concern.

“We need to have some reasonable privacy protections so that every possible sensitive interaction in people’s lives doesn’t just go up on YouTube for everyone to gawk at,” Hansen said.

Washington’s temporary law exempts body cam video from disclosure if “essential” to protect a person’s right to privacy. It also requires police departments that deploy the cameras to establish policies for how officers use them.

Meanwhile, the task force is supposed to issue a final report to the Legislature this December. From there, lawmakers will have to figure out if there’s consensus to pass a permanent law. 

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