Body Worn Camera Program FAQ’s
Frequently Asked Questions
DPS is committed to improving transparency and accountability. BWC’s are already being used successfully in several other Washington institutions of higher education.
Yes. The recordings are public records and will be made available consistent with Washington State’s Public Records laws. Laws relating to the retention and disclosure of public records, including records retention schedules, would govern retention and disclosure of recordings.
This policy is not intended to describe every possible situation in which the BWC may be used, although there are many situations where its use is appropriate.
If adequate time is available, the officer shall activate the BWC in any of the following situations:
- Traffic stops
- Vehicle pursuits
- Custodial arrests
- Vehicle searches that are consent or exigent
- Physical or verbal confrontations or use of force
- DUI investigations including field sobriety tests and processing
- Domestic violence calls involving physical violence
- Dispatched calls involving weapons
The officer should activate the BWC in any of the following situations:
- Self-initiated activity in which the officer believes there may be evidentiary value in activating the BWC;
- Any other circumstance that the officer reasonably believes that a recording of a contact or event would be appropriate.
- Self-initiated FIRs
- Once started, recordings should continue without interruption until the contact ends.
At no time is an officer expected to jeopardize their safety or that of the public in order to activate a BWC. Officers suddenly confronted with an unexpected event should react to any potential threats and protect themselves and others first before they attempt to activate their BWCs.
The BWC should be activated in required situations as soon as practicable.
- Prior to going into the field, each officer who uses a BWC will be properly trained and equipped with aa BWC to record audio and video in the field to include familiarization with this policy. At the end of each shift, each officer will follow the established procedures for providing to the Department any recordings or used media and any other related equipment.
- At the start of their shift and before going into the field, each officer should test the BWC in accordance with manufacturer specifications and Department operating procedures and training prior to going into the field with the BWC. If the BWC is malfunctioning or not working, the officer shall notify their supervisor.
- The officer shall orally inform any person being recorded that a recording is being made and shall ensure said advisement is recorded. The officer shall orally advise the subject they are being audio and video recorded. Officers shall make an attempt to ensure that non-English speaking persons, those with limited English proficiency, or persons hearing impaired understand that they are being recorded.
- An officer may encounter a situation in public that is rapidly evolving, dynamic, and involving a group of persons. In these situations, it may not be feasible to advise all parties present that they are being audio and video recorded because of the dynamic environment. In a group, public setting, where the law recognizes minimal expectation of privacy, the officer should advise the primary contact and all other parties where feasible. The officer should document in their report reasons for not advising every person present.
- When interviewing crime victims, officers shall ask the individual: “Do you want your identity to remain confidential for public records purposes?” This question should be recorded.
- Prior to the endo of their shift, officers using BWC shall download the data at designated computers/ docking stations as determined by the Department. After download, the officer should ensure the BWC system is available to be recharged.
- Officers shall document the use of BWC during an incident in their police report. If a citation was issued, a notation shall be placed on the back of the records copy of the citation that the incident was recorded.
If the BCW was not activated in a situation where policy mandates its usage, the officer shall articulate reasons why it was not used in their incident report.
It is the opinion of the Washington State Attorney General that recording by police in a private residence is permissible. Absent exigent circumstances or when a contact becomes adversarial, officers shall orally inform any person being recorded that a recording is being made and shall ensure said advisement is recorded.
When recording victim or witness interviews, the officers shall ask the individual: “Do you want your identity, and/or communications, to remain confidential for public records purposes?” This question should be recorded.
If a person objects to being recorded, the officer may elect to record the encounter despite objection. Since conversations with police officers are not considered private under Washington law, there is no requirement that an officer turn off the camera for a citizen who objects to having the interaction recorded.