City of Kirkland seeks community input on potential body-worn camera program

The program’s goal is to increase community and officer safety, and perhaps even KPD’s accountability.

The City of Kirkland is seeking community feedback on a potential body-worn camera program, which would increase community and officer safety, and may increase Kirkland Police Department’s accountability and transparency.

A virtual discussion will take place on March 23 at 6:00 p.m., and the feedback will have a direct influence on the city council’s consideration of a body-worn camera program. The city’s community engagement process will include discussing benefits, opportunities, costs, and concerns of the potential program.

Topics of discussion will include who within the police department should wear a camera, and when recordings with cameras should occur and be stopped, among others.

The City of Kirkland published a draft policy on body-worn cameras, which was developed using Kirkland Police Department’s subscription to Lexipol, a company that provides a full library of customizable and state specific law enforcement policies that are updated in response to new state and federal laws, and court decisions.

“The Kirkland Police Department will provide commissioned personnel, parking enforcement officers and animal control officers with body-worn cameras for use during the performance of their duties due to their regular interactions with members of the public,” stated the draft policy.

According to the draft body-worn camera policy, the cameras should be recording in any of the following instances:

  • Domestic violence calls
  • Traffic stops
  • Priority responses
  • Offenses involving weapons
  • Vehicle pursuits
  • Mental health contacts and welfare checks
  • Suspicious vehicles and suspicious persons
  • Arrests
  • Investigatory stops and/or detentions
  • Vehicle searches
  • Physical confrontations or use of force
  • Verbal confrontations
  • DUI investigations, including sobriety tests
  • Crimes in progress
  • Responses to an in-progress call
  • Transport of any subject
  • While observing another member violating policy or laws
  • If requested by a member of the public

Other instances where a body-worn camera may be activated includes during self-initiated activity in which the KPD member believes there may be evidentiary value of recording; any contact that becomes adversarial after the initial contact in a situation that would otherwise not be recorded; and any other circumstances that the KPD member reasonably believes that a recording of a contact or event would be appropriate.

“No member of this department may record a face-to-face conversation without first announcing, or otherwise communicating, that the conversation is going to be recorded and ensuring the announcement is recorded expect pursuant to a court order, or when the communication is of an emergency nature or relates to communications by a hostage holder or barricaded suspect,” stated the draft policy.

According to the body-worn camera draft policy, cameras must be turned off during conversations with witnesses to, or victims of crime, and members of the community who seek to report or discuss criminal activity in the neighborhood, if the KPD member believes the deactivation of the camera would encourage complete and accurate information sharing by the witness or victim.

Other occasions where body-worn cameras must be deactivated include incidents involving rape, sexual abuse, nudity, or other similarly sensitive matters. Members of KPD must consider the value of recording, and willingness of the victims or witnesses to speak on camera during such incidents.

Additionally, KPD members must deactivate body-worn cameras when exchanging information that is sensitive to a criminal investigation to another officer, or when engaged in an operational or tactical discussion.

Members of KPD are prohibited from using body-worn cameras when off-duty. They also may not upload the footage to public or social media sites without express permission from the Chief of Police. Recordings must not be used for the purpose of harassment, embarrassment, or ridicule, and no duplication or distribution of the recordings is allowed, except for authorized KPD purposes, according to the draft policy.

Community engagement on the potential body-worn camera program will continue through March and April, and the results of the community engagement process will be presented to the city council on May 3. A decision on whether the program will be implemented will take place in May.

To view the body-worn camera draft policy click here.