King County Executive Dow Constantine has ordered a review of all 550 of Metro Transit’s on-bus surveillance systems, after they failed to record two shootings Monday morning.
Just before 9 a.m., Martin A. Duckworth shot a bus driver Monday morning, and then was fatally shot by police while apparently trying to commandeer a second bus.
Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok confirmed Friday that, “We took a look at the two cameras; there wasn’t any video to retrieve.” The agency suspects “hard-drive errors” in both cases, but the situation is still being investigated, she said.
Transit officials said they will now check the video systems every 6,000 miles, at the same time the rest of the bus undergoes routine equipment and safety checkups.
About 40 percent of the Metro fleet is equipped with onboard cameras, funded largely through federal security grants. In some cases, they have helped law enforcement find criminals — notably Raymel J. Curry, who attacked a 55-year-old passenger exiting a Route 7 bus in 2010. About 50 percent of buses are to be equpped by the end of this year.
Despite lacking footage, police and Metro supervisors have gathered abundant evidence this week, including accounts from bus drivers and passengers. “We kind of know how the actual incident played out,” Ogershok said.
The camera failure was first reported by Publicola.
Duckworth shot a bus driver who asked him to pay fare in downtown Seattle on a Route 27 bus. That driver, DeLoy Dupuis, survived with wounds to the arm and cheek. Moments later, Duckworth was shot after forcing his way into the front of a Route 120 bus that just arrived on Seneca Street, from the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Here’s the Friday afternoon statement:
Metro statement: on-board video system performance
On Thursday Metro Transit confirmed that camera systems on the two buses involved in Monday’s shooting incident (Routes 27 and 120) failed to produce on-board video. The preliminary finding is that the problem stemmed from a hard drive error in the DVR systems, which prevented them from capturing the video.
In light of these errors, County Executive Constantine directed Metro to conduct an immediate review of the status and maintenance of all on-board security cameras. Meanwhile, Metro will continue to work with police on the ongoing investigation surrounding Monday’s incident.
Video system functionality
Metro has used the video system since 2008. Overall, the system has proved to be an invaluable tool leading to numerous arrests over the years based on the images captured.
Over the past 18 months, Metro has downloaded approximately 4,000 video requests from law enforcement agencies and others, including media organizations. These videos have been instrumental in successfully prosecuting suspects and have augmented on-the-ground work performed by King County’s Metro Transit deputies and local police units. Currently about 550 coaches are equipped with on-board camera systems representing about 40 percent of Metro’s entire bus fleet. By 2016, approximately 50% of Metro buses, including its new trolley fleet, will be equipped with cameras.
On-board transit video systems are complex and take a daily beating due to heavy bus usage. In this challenging field environment, friction, heat and vibration can all play a role in overall system reliability. Consequently, systems can go out of service during the course of daily operation.
Metro’s top priority is the safety and security of its passengers and operators, and after every incident, Metro examines what can be learned and what can be done differently in the future.
In light of these system errors and the direction from the Executive, technicians will check the status of camera equipment on Metro’s entire bus fleet. Metro will also work with the vendor to learn more about the factors that can contribute to such errors, such as equipment life cycle and maintenance. Current maintenance procedures call for system checks when technicians routinely retrieve video; Metro now plans to step up video system maintenance and review as part of its standard 6,000-mile coach inspection program.
We also recognize that changes in technology may present opportunities for system improvement. Metro has already begun a test on selected coaches to evaluate the capability of WIFI technology to remotely monitor the recording status of on-board video systems in real time. If this technology proves reliable and cost effective, it would enable more rapid identification and repair of faulty equipment.