Body-Worn Camera Program

Body-worn-camera image

Last updated on November 30, 2022. 

The City Council implemented a body-worn camera program in order to increase both community and officer safety.

Below is the anticipated timeline for the Kirkland body-worn camera project:

Phase 1: December 1, 2022 - the Kirkland Police Department Traffic Unit will begin using body-worn cameras.

Phase 2: December 15 - 29, 2022 - The Kirkland Police Department Patrol Unit will begin using body-worn cameras. All patrol officers are anticipated to be using body-worn cameras by January 1, 2023.

Phase 2: January 2023 - Specialty Units will be issued body-worn cameras.  

The City’s adopted policy on body-worn cameras is available here Kirkland Police Body-Worn Camera Policy(PDF, 39KB). This policy was developed utilizing the Department’s subscription to Lexipol, a company that provides a full library of customizable, state-specific law enforcement policies that are updated in response to new state and federal laws and court decisions. These policies are researched and written by subject matter experts and vetted by attorneys. They are based on nationwide standards and best practices but are always customized to best fit the Kirkland Police Department and signed off by the Chief of Police before becoming KPD policy. 

This video will provide more information on body-worn cameras:

How do I make a request for a copy of a body-worn video?

Body-worn camera video can be requested through the Kirkland Police Department Public Disclosure process

Why body-worn cameras?

Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are often proposed as solution to increasing police accountability and transparency. Because BWCs provide an audio-visual recording of encounters between police and the public, BWCs may encourage officers and community members to maintain a higher standard of behavior during an incident, ultimately leading to an increase in mutual respect and safety. While a BWC cannot replace an officer’s “perception,” it may enhance their memory particularly in complex and stressful interactions.

How will the City of Kirkland use body-worn cameras?

The Kirkland Police Department will use the cameras in accordance with applicable law to:

  • Accurately capture the actions, interactions, and communication of the Kirkland Police Department and the public.
  • Collect evidence for use in criminal investigations and prosecutions.
  • Deter criminal activity and uncooperative behavior during police-public interactions.
  • Assist Kirkland Police Department staff with completing reports and providing testimony in court.
  • Ensure accountability for policy and law violations.
  • Assist in resolving complaints.
  • Provide additional information for Kirkland Police Department evaluation, training, and continuous improvement.

Recent Timeline of City Actions on Body-Worn Cameras

On May 5, 2020, the City Council requested an update on BWCs to include the Washington State Joint Legislative Task Force results on the Use of Body-Worn Cameras, current public disclosure laws, and an estimate of the cost involved in deploying BWC in the form of an issue paper.

On July 7, 2020, Chief Harris provided a preliminary update on research the Police Department was conducting on BWC programs.

On August 8, 2020, the Council adopted Resolution 5434 to improve the safety and respect of Black people, which included Section 2e: “Developing a police body camera pilot program.”

On October 21, 2020, an extensive report on body-worn cameras was completed by the Kirkland Police Department.

The 2021-2022 Community Safety Initiative budget includes a place holder for a BWC pilot program in 2022, the funding for the initial set up of equipment, and two full time FTE’s to manage the digital information and the public records requests.

The topic of BWC was included as part of the R-5434 community engagement process of late 2020 and early 2021. As directed in R-5434, that process included conversations with formal and informal Black-led community groups, Black community leaders, youth, and community members, and other people of color in a series of focus groups. Although not discussed by all groups, a BWC program, if done correctly, generally received strong support from the groups that did prioritize discussing it.

In July 2021, the City of Kirkland submitted a U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance Grant application(PDF, 239KB) to support the purchase of BWCs. The City received notification from BAJ in December 2021 that the Department was awarded approximately $220,000 dollars to purchase the initial equipment needed to implement a BWC program. The grant acceptance deadline was January 31, 2022.

At the January 18, 2022 Council meeting, the City Manager highlighted that the City would accept the grant, but acceptance did not commit the City to implementing a BWC program. Certification of Department BWC policies must occur by June 1, 2022. In addition, the two staff must be hired by September 1, 2022 to comply with the parameters of the grant award. If the City Council chooses not to implement a BWC program in Kirkland, the Department will notify BJA of the decision and apply to return the grant award.

On February 1, 2022, the Council received an update on a potential BWC program and provided direction to staff on community engagement and policy issues needing additional research for Council’s further consideration of a BWC program.

Between March and May, 2022, the City sough feedback from the community on a potential body-worn camera program.  This engagement process included discussing the benefits, opportunities, costs, and concerns of a body-worn camera program and also explored policy considerations for a body-worn camera program. Some of the considerations discussed include:

  • benefits and drawbacks of body-worn cameras,
  • who within the Kirkland Police Department should wear body-worn cameras,
  • when recording with the cameras should occur,
  • if and when recordings should be stopped, and
  • under what circumstances the footage should be shared.

On May 17, 2022, staff presented the results of the community engagement process to Council, as well as additional analysis and research based on prior Council questions and direction.

At the July 5, 2022 Council meeting, Council adopted Ordinance O-4796 Enacting a new chapter of the Kirkland Municipal Code restricting use of facial recognition technology, and authorizing use of Police Body Worn Cameras.  Many updates on timeline, community engagement process, and policy decisions needed for implementation of police body worn cameras have gone before the Council. Here is the most recent agenda itemsordinance, and meeting recording  from July 5, 2022.

On December 1, 2022 body worn cameras will be disbursed to three traffic officers and the footage from each officer will be used to monitor the processes put in place for officers, records, evidence and public disclosure requests.  Over the next several weeks in December, the cameras will be dispersed to the rest of the officers with an anticipated 100% live operation by January 1, 2023.

Due to the fluidity of law enforcement work, BWCs record more than the public space stationary cameras. Officers could potentially record inside private residences and other non-public areas, and film sensitive situations that might emerge during calls for service. Significant privacy concerns can also arise when interviewing crime victims, particularly in situations involving rape, abuse, or other sensitive matters. When implementing BWCs, law enforcement agencies must balance these privacy considerations with the need for transparency of police operations, accurate documentation of events, and evidence collection. Read more(PDF, 548KB).

It is generally up to each police department within Washington State to determine their BWC policy when cameras are activated and deactivated. State law stipulates several issues that policies must address at a minimum such as when a body worn camera must be activated and deactivated, when officers have the discretion to stop and start body worn cameras, what to do when there is a communication or language issue, documentation, training, and data protection. Read more(PDF, 548KB).

Washington State is a two/all-party consent state when it comes to recordings. State law RCW defines that advising a person they are being recorded is considered obtaining consent: The law also addresses that recordings of an emergency nature, such as the reporting of a fire, medical emergency, crime, or disaster, does not require all-party consent. There may be situations where a person’s ability to acknowledge or consent to recording may be compromised. Because of this, BWCs may have a disproportionate impact on those with disadvantaged positions, such as people with mental illness, who are homeless, or who are otherwise in crisis. Read more(PDF, 548KB).

While Washington State law prohibits the disclosure of BWC recordings from medical facilities where an individual is receiving treatment or health care information, consideration should be made to record non-law enforcement action in medical facilities and officers’ BWCs recording medical treatment on-scene of a call for service. Read more(PDF, 548KB).

The City of Kirkland currently follows all State of Washington retention schedules. The City will need to develop a policy for retention of BWC recordings within the parameters of state policy and with consideration of the privacy of those recorded. The longer recorded videos are retained, the longer they are subject to public disclosure, which can be problematic if the video contains footage associated with privacy concerns. Read more(PDF, 548KB).

Disclosure of BWC footage can promote transparency and accountability but can also create privacy concerns for recordings of victims, sensitive incidents/investigations, or from private areas. State law describes several situations in which nondisclosure is essential for the protection of privacy rights including certain medical situations, inside private homes, when the footage involves a minor or a deceased person, and other circumstances. State law also clarifies the public records requests as they pertain to BWC footage. Read more(PDF, 548KB).

Requests for Body-Worn Camera (BWC) recordings can be made online or in-person at the Kirkland Police Department or City Hall. We highly suggest submitting the request online for accuracy purposes. 

Per RCW 42.56 requests for body-worn camera recordings must include one of the following or risk the request being denied:

a) Name of person involved in the incident;

b) lncident or case number(s);

c) Date(s), time(s), and location(s) of the incident(s); or

d) ldentifying information of law enforcement or corrections officer(s) involved in the incident(s)

Charges associated with BWC records requests

With the exception of the following requestors, the PRA allows an agency to charge a requestor the reasonable costs of redacting, altering, distorting, pixelating, suppressing, or otherwise obscuring any portion of the body-worn camera recording prior to disclosure:

  • A person directly involved in an incident recorded by the requested body worn camera recording;
  • An attorney representing a person directly involved in an incident recorded by the requested body worn camera recording;
  • A person or his or her attorney who requests a body worn camera recording relevant to a criminal case involving that person;
  • The executive director from either the Washington state commission on African-American affairs, Asian Pacific American affairs, or Hispanic affairs; or
  • If relevant to a cause of action, an attorney who represents a person regarding a potential or existing civil cause of action involving the denial of civil rights under the federal or state Constitution, or a violation of a United States department of justice settlement.

See the approved memo regarding Body Worn Camera Public Disclosure Redaction Cost Recovery for information regarding charging cost analysis and application. 

Body-worn camera recordings are stored digitally and record a significant amount of footage requiring a large amount of digital media storage space. In addition to a comprehensive, secure digital media storage solution, direct media management and oversight is needed. Consideration for additional personnel to categorize recordings, determine retention schedules, perform redaction and transcription, and destroy media in a timely manner is imperative. Read more(PDF, 548KB).

Input from the community into the development of operational policies governing the use of BWCs is important to the City of Kirkland and encouraged by state law. BWCs have been shown to promote transparency and accountability.  Research also showed there may be concerns over unintended impacts of BWCs, such as whether the presence of recording devices discourages people from coming forward with information or impacts community members disproportionately. It’s essential that the community carefully consider all potential benefits and drawbacks of a body-worn camera program and it’s why the City of Kirkland is inviting input now. Read more(PDF, 548KB).

Officer concerns can include questions surrounding their own privacy during periods in which they are not interacting with the public, the ability to review footage prior to writing reports, understanding policies on what is recorded and released, and the effects of public disclosure requests.  One of the factors that will need to be addressed is how the Department and City will use camera footage to monitor officer performance. Body-worn cameras would be considered a change in working conditions and would be subject to the collective bargaining agreement process. Read more(PDF, 548KB).

For the City of Kirkland, a body-worn camera program is estimated to cost approximately $2.2 million for a 5-year period. This includes the cost of equipment, the storage of thousands of hours of footage, and additional personnel needed to review and categorize the footage and respond to public record requests. The cost can be offset by a $220,000 grant offered to the City by the U.S Department of Justice.

  Year 1  Year 2  Year 3 Year 4  Year 5  Total
Equipment and Storage   $150,000  $209,880  $218,275 $227,006  $236,086  $1,041,248
Training    $25,000  $25,000      $50,000
Evidence Technician (1 FTE)  $30,290  $110,513  $117,696  $125,347  $133,495  $517,341
Public Disclosure Analyst (1 FTE)  $33,541  $123,174  $131,180  $139,707  $148,788  $576,390
DOJ BWC Grant Award    $(220,000)        $(220,000)
Total Estimated Costs  $231,831 $248,567   $492,151  $492,060 $518,369 $1,964,978