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November 24, 2014 at 9:15 AM

State AG says police don’t need consent to record with body cams

Update 10:42 a.m.:

James McMahan, policy director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, in a statement Monday, said Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s opinion on police body cameras clears “two major hurdles” faced by law enforcement across the state.

“We are pleased that the Attorney General has provided guidance on the privacy implications of body cameras.  Attorney General Ferguson’s opinion on this matter is a logical extension of what citizens have known for years.  Today’s opinion by the Attorney General clears one of two major hurdles faced by law enforcement agencies seeking to equip their officers with body cameras.  We look forward to working with the Legislature to address the second hurdle – striking an appropriate balance between transparency and accountability without enabling voyeurism and commercial exploitation.”

Original post: Police officers using body-worn cameras in Washington state do not have to ask the person they are recording for consent, even though Washington is one of several states that require “two-party consent” to record audio.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued the long-awaited opinion on the usage of police body cameras on Monday morning.

Ferguson weighed in on the issue after Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, asked for some clarification on the issue.

“The Washington Privacy Act does not require officer consent because the Washington Supreme Court has recognized that a conversation between a police officer and a member of the public that occurs in the performance of the officer’s duties is not private. A collective bargaining agreement, however, might affect whether police officers must consent to wearing or using body cameras,” according to the opinion.

According to the opinion, recording conversation or video inside a private home or another private setting is a more complicated issue.

“A conversation between a police officer and a member of the public that occurs in the performance of the officer’s official duties is not private,” according to the opinion. “Yet, depending on the circumstances, a court could conclude that some intercepted conversations in a person’s home involving parties other than police officers might be private and not subject to lawful recording under the Washington Privacy Act, absent a warrant or consent.”

Ferguson and Solicitor General Noah Purcell are expected to discuss the opinion later in the morning.

Several Washington state police departments are already experimenting with small, body-worn cameras. The Seattle Police Department hopes to equip all street officers with them by 2016.

 

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Attorney General Bob Ferguson, police body-cameras, two-party consent

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