Body-Worn Camera Pilot Project Guidelines

425.1 PURPOSE AND SCOPE

This page provides a guideline for the use of body-worn video cameras (BWC) by members of the Western Washington University Department of Public Safety while in the performance of their duties. This guideline does not apply to the interception of conversations for lawfully authorized investigative purposes under RCW 9.73.210 and RCW 9.73.230.  

425.2 DEFINITIONS

Body-worn video cameras (BWC): System that captures audio and video signals that is capable of being worn on an officer’s person, and that includes at minimum, a camera, microphone, recorder and monitor.

425.3 GUIDELINES

The Western Washington University Department of Public Safety provides officers with access to body-worn video cameras for use during the performance of their duties.  All fully commissioned uniformed officers shall use and wear a body-worn camera consistent with this guideline. Officers are prohibited from using privately-owned body-worn video cameras while on duty. This guideline is intended to more effectively fulfill the Department’s mission and to ensure these systems are used properly, safely, securely, and efficiently.

425.4 OFFICER RESPONSIBILITIES

  1. Prior to going into the field, each officer who uses a BWC will be properly trained and equipped with a BWC to record audio and video in the field. Officer training shall include familiarization with this guideline.  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.
  2. At the start of their shift and before going into the field with the BWC each officer should test the BWC in accordance with manufacturer specifications and Department operating procedures and training.  If the BWC is malfunctioning or not working, the officer shall notify their supervisor.
     
  3. 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 laws recognize 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.
     
  4. 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.
     
  5. Prior to the end 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 recharged.
     
  6. 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.
     
  7. If the BCW was not activated in a situation where guidelines mandates its usage, the officer shall articulate reasons why it was not used in their incident report.

425.5 ACTIVATION OF THE BWC

This guideline 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:

  1. Self-initiated activity in which the officer believes there may be evidentiary value in activating the BWC;
  2. Any other circumstance that the officer reasonably believes that a recording of a contact or event would be appropriate.
  3. Self-initiated FIRs
  4. 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.

425.6 TURNING OFF THE BWC DURING AN INCIDENT

Consistent with this guideline, once started, BWC recordings should continue without interruption until the contact ends.  However, officers may (a) deactivate the audio on the BWC and continue to video record during an incident or (b) deactivate the video on the BWC and cease recording in the following circumstances:

  1. Officers have discretion during conversations with crime witnesses and members of the community who wish to report or discuss crime activity in their neighborhood.
     
  2. Consistent with section 425.9 of this guideline, when exchanging information with other officers or when engaged in an operational or tactical discussion with other officers.  If this occurs during a contact to exchange information or discuss operation details with another officer, the officer shall state the reason BWC audio or BWC video is being turned off and the officer shall promptly reactivate the BWC audio or BWC video before resuming duties related to the incident.

Anytime an officer turns off the BWC prior to the conclusion of an interaction or contact, the officer shall audibly document the reason for turning the BWC off and note this in their police report.

425.7 RECORDING SUSPECT AFTER ARREST

Consistent with RCW 9.73.090, before an officer records an arrested suspect with a BWC, the officer shall:

  1. Inform the suspect that they are being recorded.
  2. State the time the recording begins and ends.
  3. Record the reading of the Miranda warnings.

425.8 SURREPTITIONS RECORDING

Washington law prohibits any individual from surreptitiously recording any conversation, except as provided in RCW 9.73.040, RCW 9.73.090, RCW 9.73.210, and RCW 9.73.230.

425.9 PROHIBITED USE

Officers should not activate or use the BWC to record when exchanging information with other officers, during breaks, preparing written documents, and when not in service or actively on patrol.  When in any law enforcement facility, to include the Department of Public Safety, the BWC shall be deactivated or disabled, left in the officer’s vehicle, or placed in a charger to attempt to prevent an inadvertent recording of operation or personal conversations.  The exception is when the officer is engaged in law enforcement activity and interacting in person with a suspect or member of the public.  

Officers should not activate or use the BWC to record conversations with confidential informants and undercover officers to protect confidentiality and officer safety.  

Officers should not activate or use the BWC in places where reasonable expectations of privacy exist (e.g. bathrooms or locker rooms).

No officer or member of the Department may surreptitiously record any conversation of any other member of this Department except with a court order and when authorized by the Chief of Police or authorized designee for the purpose of conducting a criminal investigation.

Officers and members of the Department are prohibited from using a Department BWC for personal use and are prohibited from making personal copies of recordings created while on-duty or while acting in their official capacity.

All recordings shall be retained by the Department.
 

425.10 RECORDING IN A PRIVATE RESIDENCE AND RESPONDING TO CIRCUMSTNCES WHERE A PERSON IS OR MAY BE UNWILLING TO COMMUNICATE WHILE BEING RECORDED

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 citizen 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.

425.11 RECORDING IN A MEDICAL FACILITY

Any recording in a medical facility shall consist only of those persons pertinent to the investigation.  

It is highly recommended that victim interviews be conducted in an area where personal privacy can be protected and, if appropriate, should have a victim advocate present.
 

425.12 RETENTION OF RECORDINGS

All recorded imagery will be stored and retained by the Department in accordance with the law and destroyed at the conclusion of any retention period required by law.  The retention period may be extended at the request of an officer or supervisor and should be extended if the recorded contact constitutes evidence in a criminal case or the recorded contact may be beneficial in a non-criminal matter.

Any time an officer records a contact that constitutes evidence in a criminal case, the officer shall record the related case number, download the file in accordance with Department procedures to ensure the recording is retained for evidentiary purposes, and document the existence in their case report.

Any time an officer reasonably believes a recorded contact may be beneficial in a non-criminal matter, the member should promptly notify a supervisor of the recording’s existence, download the file in accordance with Department procedures, ensure the recording is retained, and document the existence in their case report.

Members should upload the files at the end of their shift and any time the storage capacity of the BWC is nearing its limit.
 

425.12.1 INADVERTENT RECORDINGS

An officer may inadvertently/accidently record themselves, or others while the BWC is activated. These particular inadvertent/ accidental recordings do not meet the statutory definition of a public record (as described in RCW 42.56.010(3) because they do not relate to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental function and as such may be deleted.  

The following procedure has been established for videos that should be deleted because they are inadvertent or accidental:

  1. The recording officer shall notify the on-duty patrol supervisor, via email, that:
    • An inadvertent/accidental recording was made; and 
    • The recording date and time; and 
    • A request that the recording be reviewed for deletion.
  2. The on-duty patrol supervisor will review the recording and if they agree that the video should be deleted shall forward the request to the Evidence/ ID Supervisor. 

425.13 REVIEW OF BWC RECORDINGS

All recording media, recorded images and audio recordings are the property of the Department. Dissemination outside the agency is strictly prohibited, except to the extent permitted by or required by law.  

Agency personnel shall not access recorded data for personal use. Agency personnel shall not upload recorded data onto public and social media websites without express permission from the Chief of Police.

BWC recordings will not be routinely or randomly reviewed to monitor officer performance. A supervisor may conduct a review of a specific incident. Reasons for reviewing a specific incident include: 

  1. Capturing specific evidence for use in a criminal prosecution,
  2. A civil claim has been filed or for a potential civil claim that could be filed against the University involving the incident,
  3. A citizen complaint has been made against an officer regarding the incident,
  4. The incident included use of force, 
  5. The incident included a vehicle pursuit
  6. The incident included a vehicle collision, or the incident involved serious injury or death.  It shall be deemed a violation of this guideline for a supervisor to review recordings for the sole purpose of searching for violations of department policy or law not related to a specific complaint or incident.

Recordings may also be viewed in any of the following situations:

  1. By a recording officer for use when preparing reports and statements; 
  2. To assess properly functioning BWC systems; 
  3. By a Department investigator who is participating in an official investigation such as a personnel complaint, administrative inquiry or a criminal investigation;
  4. By an officer who is captured on or referenced in the video or audio data and reviews and uses such data for any purposes related to their employment;
  5. Recordings may be shown for training purposes.  Involved officer(s) shall be notified and if an involved officer objects to showing a recording, their objection shall be submitted to the Chief of Police to determine if the training value outweighs the officer’s objection; 
  6. By an employee’s legal representative and/ or bargaining unit representative who is involved in representing the employee in an official investigation, such as a personnel complaint administrative inquiry, or criminal investigation;
  7. By the Attorney General’s office or other legal representative of the University.

When preparing written reports, officers should only review their recordings as a resource.  Members should not use the fact that a recording was made as a reason to write a less detailed report.

In no event shall a recording be used or shown for the purpose of ridiculing or embarrassing an officer or Department employee.

Recordings will be provided to the City and County prosecutor’s office when requested as part of discovery for a criminal case.
 

425.14 PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF BWC RECORDINGS

Public disclosure of BWC recordings is governed by the Public Records Act, Chapter 42.56 RCW. Upon receipt of a PRA request for a BWC recording, the staff member will immediately email the request to the Property Room Manager and the Public Records Officer. The Property Room Manager will take immediate steps to flag the requested recording(s) as a “Public Record” in order to preserve the recording(s). The Public Records Officer, or designee will send the requestor a five-day acknowledgment notice with an estimated time for completion of the request. The Property Room Manager and the Public Records Officer will coordinate the University’s response to the request. 

425.15 TRAINING

The Chief of Police or designee shall appoint a Systems Administrator to oversee the BWC system and training personnel.

Officers shall not use BWC systems unless they have successfully completed training in the proper use of such equipment. Training provisions will include class room discussion and appropriate field application. The training will consist of a review of the proper function and use of the BGWC devices, recommended times to employ the system, and Departmental guideline and procedures as they pertain to the system. A written record of the training provided will be completed by the trainer and maintained in the officer’s training file.

Additional training will be required at periodic intervals to ensure the continued effective use and operations and performance, and to incorporate changes, updates, or other revisions in guideline and equipment.
 

425.16 USE OF BWC RECORDING IN DISCIPLINE

The existence of a BWC recording that captures an officer making a mistake or not in compliance with a guideline or rule shall not be the basis for enhanced discipline. The existence of the recording does not exacerbate or aggravate the conduct.

It is directly acknowledged as we deploy BWCs, officer encounter stressful situations in a fast paced and often unpredictable environment. In this environment, officers will sometimes misspeak, make mistakes, or use foul language. While we make every effort to avoid these errors, the BWC recordings should assist in coaching for improved performance, not to levy more substantial discipline to employees than the same unrecorded conduct would subject them to.

If a BWC recording is reviewed by the Department as part of an official IA investigation, the Department shall provide the involved employee(s) notice and a general description of the allegations.  At least seventy-two (72) hours prior to interviewing any involved employee(s) about their conduct, which is part of a BWC recording, the applicable BWC recording will be provided to the involved employee(s) and their legal and/or collective bargaining representative.

In the event that a recording is reviewed in error, for instance; if while searching for a recording of a specific date and time, an unrelated recording of a similar date and time is reviewed, the Department should not initiate a new personnel complaint based on mere violations of Department guideline, however if such a recording shows alleged violations of law, the Department may initiate an investigation and open a complaint if necessary.

Recordings shall not be used for the auditing of routine activity not related to criminal investigations or allegations of misconduct.  Recordings shall not be reviewed for employee evaluation purposes.

A supervisor may conduct a review of a specific incident on an officer’s recorded imagery only when there is an articulable reason justifying such a review.  Articulable reasons for reviewing an officer’s BWC footage include, but are not limited to: 

  1. Capturing specific evidence for use in a criminal prosecution
  2. A civil claim has been filed against the University involving the incident,
  3. A citizen complaint has been made against an officer regarding the incident,
  4. The incident included a use of force,
  5. The incident included a vehicle pursuit,
  6. The incident included a vehicular collision, or
  7. The incident involved a serious injury or death.  Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, Field Training Officers (FTO) may review the BWC footage of probationary trainees in the Field Training Program.

425.17 OFFICER AND UNION ACCESS TO VIDEO

An employee’s legal representative and/or bargaining unit representative will be provided copies of all recordings relevant to any official investigation, such as a lethal force report, personnel complaint, administrative inquiry or criminal investigation, relevant to or associated with a Department employee.