As of March 2015, about one-third of the 18,000 police departments in the U.S. were using body cameras. Now, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has issued a “sweeping executive order” mandating police officers be equipped with body cameras.
Mayor Murray has even made the use of body cameras necessary for police officers on bike patrol, according to The Seattle Times.
; Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole wholeheartedly agrees with Mayor Murray’s decision.
“No one is more committed to equipping officers with body cameras than I am,” she said. “As studies and our own pilot (program) have shown, body cameras are critical tools, not just for holding all involved to account for their actions, but also to enhance safety of officers and community members.”
O’Toole also said that the department has received positive responses from officers regarding the decision, adding that the department has worked “diligently and collaboratively” to come to a common ground and decide on a policy that contains the perfect balance of “transparency and privacy in often sensitive circumstances.”
O’Toole also said that the police department has worked diligently to increase support for a body cam program from its community partners. This includes the Community Police Commission and other privacy advocates.
The police accountability issue arose after the death of 30-year-old black woman and mother of four Charleena Lyles. June 18, two white officers shot Lyles during a conflict in her apartment in Magnuson Park.
Unfortunately, only the audio of the incident was recorded. The two officers, Jason Anderson and Steven McNew, claim that Lyles began attacking them with knives.
Murray then met with Lyles’ neighbors, who expressed serious concerns regarding the lack of police body camera enforcement. Murray also met with multiple African American ministers, who showed “real serious anger” regarding the issue.
Ultimately, City Council President Bruce Harrell approves of Murray’s decision and has been a supporter of police body cams for years. He said:
“While we respect the collective bargaining process and have been very patiently working with all parties involved, deploying cameras on our police officers is long overdue…we cannot stand idly by and let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”