This SR Story yesterday warrants a reposting of this old story of mine and really has to make one wonder why the Spokesman Review is intent upon keeping their readers in the dark about body cameras. The reporter in this recent story does link HB2362 the newest attempt by law enforcement and government to hide body camera footage from the public but she does not even bother to address the various obvious issues with HB2362 including the discriminatory aspect that allows executive directors of minority groups to obtain the footage when the average citizen can not.
Keep in mind that all of the problems associated with body camera footage have been known to SPD since well prior to the Attorney General answering my questions in his Opinion, and I personally have been over and over this. Tim Schwering’s presentation before the PSC is just a continuation of the body camera fraud perpetrated on the public.
FOR SOME REASON THE SR DOESN’T EVEN WANT TO REPORT THE FACTS AND THE QUESTON IS WHY?
Any good Investigative Reporter could go back and review all of the false public statements made by Mayor Condon, Frank Straub, and Tim Schwering starting prior to the purchase of body cameras and watch as the fraud evolved to the point it is today.
We are now in a situation where we are going to pay for an exempt crony of Mayor Condon and Frank Straub, Tim Schwering, to attend the Basic Law Enforcement Academy so he can obtain Washington State Law Enforcement Officer Certification and continue doing his crony thing for Mayor Condon, Dobrow, and Meidl. If you wonder why a new revelation about SPD appears in the media every other day it is because Schwering has been and continues to be in charge of internal affairs.
WAKE UP SPOKANE, WAKE UP CITY COUNCIL, WAKE UP SR!
More of the dog and pony show regarding the SPD Body Camera Program.
As many people know since 2012 I have been trying to get the truth out regarding the SPD Body Camera Program and separate fact from fiction…so here we go again for at least the 100th time.
Two recent articles appeared in the local press recently which resulted from a press release regarding an internal SPD Audit of the Body Camera Program.
The first article appeared in the PNW Inlander on November 27th, 2015 and provides some pretty good information…but not enough.
The second is an article published in the SR well after the Inlander article on Dec. 1st, 2015, and really doesn’t add much to the Inlander article.
People interested in what is going on in this town should always check three media outlets when it comes to local news The Inlander, The Spokesman Review, and of course right here when it comes to Criminal Justice Issues.
I have long been involved in cases involving RCW 9.73 the State’s Privacy Act beginning back in the 70’s when I was working Organized Crime Intelligence and well over four decades since that time. I was on committees and testified concerning the law enforcement exceptions to RCW 9.73 allowing Court Ordered Authorization to record private communications. I trained SPD Officers in the proper way to obtain authorizations, and since retiring have reviewed many, many RCW 9.73 Authorizations from a Defense perspective. I mention my background because it was that background that brought about a request for the Washington State Attorney General to provide the AG’s Opinion every law enforcement agency in the State is now working from. When I learned that the Spokane City Council had attempted to obtain written legal guidance from Nancy Isserlis regarding Body Cameras but were “rebuffed” at every turn I strongly recommended they obtain an Attorney General’s Opinion specifically relating to RCW 9.73 prior to proceeding too far with any Body Camera Program. They agreed and I was asked to write the questions to be submitted to the AG, I did, and each of the questions the AG answered were the questions I wrote. There was a reason for each and every question and a predictable answer from the Attorney General if you were familiar with the law. Because the AG’s answers were predictable, based on the case law, prior to the release of the Opinion I asked what the Council intended to do when the AG’s opinion came back and was very restrictive of body cameras. The answer I received was “We will get the law changed.”. When I pointed out it would be very difficult to do because of the makeup of the State Legislature with both Liberals and Conservatives having some common views but more opposite views than common and that was one of the reasons Seattle PD failed in their attempts the response was basically “we will see”. History again proved me correct and the attempt at legislation failed again, so here we are working off a AG’s Opinion and are left with the strong possibility that some cop will blow it and we will have to pay. For any individual or reporters reading this article questioning the truth in what I’m saying you might recall a comment that was made by another retired cop who posts in the SR Comments Section “If he says he has it, he has it!” referring to my documentation standards…well YES I DO.
I’m sure that going over all of the documentation I have provided in the past regarding Body Cameras would be boring especially for those who have kept up on the issue and have followed my previous comments regarding body cameras so I will try and refrain as much as I can, and just point out two key points the SPD doesn’t want you to know, and apparently the SR won’t delve into it to any extent at all for some reason.
The FIRST POINT is how the Guild Contract negotiated by Condon and Straub, then later approved by the City Council plays into the SPD Body Camera Program. The SECOND POINT is the fix we are in because we can’t get a Body Camera Law passed.
Here is the language which clearly demonstrates the Guild has control of how and when the body cameras are used.
One of the first rules when reading a law enforcement press release or internal audit is never believing what is said or written, always study them and develop true context and the narrative they are trying to project. Let’s look at the very poorly done Tim Schwering Internal Audit of the SPD Body Camera Program and add context and truth. I will just deal with a few of the obvious laughable areas and not bother with the ridiculous 348 respondent analytics he cites.
Any good investigative reporter would have noticed right away that Schwering’s “Internal Audit” only mentioned a small portion of the BC Pilot Policy, and would have questioned why.
Here is what Schwering cited in his “Internal Audit”:
703.1.2 ACTIVATION OF THE BODY CAMERA
Patrol officers shall activate the body camera at the outset of each contact that is associated with an incident number, whether or not the contact documents a significant incident, forms part of a criminal investigation or has any perceived evidentiary value to the officer. Unless an officer holds a legitimate belief that activating the body camera would be unsafe given the facts and circumstances, the body camera shall be activated. If a safety issue has prevented activation of the body camera, the officer shall document the details in an incident report and report it to the shift supervisor. At no time should officers jeopardize their safety in order to activate a body camera. It is understood that rapidly evolving and complicated situations may delay camera activation due to incident priority. Officers will document this situation in their incident report. During the pilot program no discipline was administered for not activating a body camera.
703.1.3 COMMUNICATIONS WHICH DO NOT NEED TO BE RECORDED
It should be recognized that not all contacts between officers and citizens need to be recorded; officers should use discretion in determining whether it is appropriate to record. Officers are encouraged to consult with their supervisor whether or not to activate body worn camera in sensitive situations (e.g. persons in mental health or other crisis situation).
703.1.4 CESSATION OF THE BODY CAMERA
Once activated, the body camera system shall remain on until the contact has concluded. Some situations may warrant de-activation of the camera; in these instances the officer shall document in a written report the reason for the deactivation.
Here are links to the entire policy. The first taken from the SPD Website and the second from SPD’s submission to the Municipal Research and Services Center.
Almost anyone can understand that the “Pilot Policy” Schwering cites, and those linked were negotiated between the Guild and the City, and that they allow almost total discretion on the part of the officer as to when the camera will be activated and when it will not be activated. It also clearly states that officers will not be disciplined for not activating the camera.
So why did Schwering not include the entire policy? Read them and you will see that the entire policy opens up those darn pointed questions reporters should ask. Like for example:
- The Pilot Policy on your website only runs from 9/1/2014 to 12/31/2014 and was updated on 11/1/2014. Is there a new policy that the public and the media haven’t seen?
- Have there been further negotiations with the guild over the Pilot Policy and what have those negotiations involved or are they secret?
- Tim when you received outside training on the impact of body cameras one of the real hot topics discussed was whether or not officers should be allowed to view the video prior to making any statements in for example officer involved shootings. The concern expressed in that training was whether officers might shade their statements to reflect what they saw in the video and it appears that both the City and the Guild have taken the opposite position. Will you address that issue and will a final BC Policy consider the question?
- Given the recent and past allegations of Guild Officers providing confidential information to officers under investigation, is the City willing to negotiate and limit the amount of information available to the Guild Officers during the investigation including body camera video?
- Will the final policy allow officer discipline for not activating the camera and is that issue now being negotiated with the Guild?
- In your Audit you stated “During the pilot program no discipline was administered for not activating a body camera.” Isn’t it true that the agreement with the Guild made it impossible and why did you not mention that as well as including what steps are taking place to fix it?
- The Taser International and Evidence.com contract was approved in September of 2013 and had a 3 year term where do we stand as far as the contract and the camera warranties are concerned?
I’m going to include Schwering’s “Finding Five” and “Recommendation Five” without any comment because it is so funny and goes directly to the issues. I’m hoping some other journalist will confront him on it. 🙂
The initial policy for SPD body worn cameras placed certain restrictions upon the circumstances when video may be reviewed by people other than the officer involved. This portion of the policy should be revised prior to the implementation of a final policy.
Supervisors should be allowed to watch all BWC footage associated with a subordinate’s use of force, vehicle pursuit, officer-involved collision, or any other administrative action. Additionally, supervisors should be allowed to watch video directly associated with a specific complaint or any criminal complaint. However, to maintain consistent practices and defend against disparate treatment complaints, supervisors should not be granted broad access to a subordinate’s BWC video without cause.
In order to verify adherence to the processes outlined in the BWC policy periodic audits should be conducted to verify video is being uploaded, classified, and handled correctly. The BWC program supervisor as noted above in Recommendation Three should carry out this responsibility.
There are many other questions that arise from this “Internal Audit”. Everyone should be formulating their own ideas concerning questions, and if you have some let me know and I’ll try and answer them.
Schwering’s “Internal Audit” really points out our need to get BC Legislation passed before we dig ourselves into an even deeper hole.
The most recent attempts to get a Body Camera Law passed failed again but here are some of the particulars people may have forgotten and this MRSC story from June 2015 summarizes where we are which is nowhere.
This is the Bill that was pushed by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Thank goodness it didn’t pass because it is an awful Bill and even allows for law enforcement to bug and wiretap without court authorization.
You might be wondering what a Body Camera Law has to do with Schwering’s fluffy press release…well here it is right in his own words. The cops admit they don’t know what the hell they are doing:
1) Did you believe your training was sufficient to start the pilot program? If not why?
The majority of officers agreed the training was sufficient. Several did not. Those that did not agree either had a brief 5-10 minute training session, or believed there was not enough training and clarity regarding policy, procedure, and/or case law concerning the appropriate circumstances for activating and de-activating the camera. Some Officers requested additional BWC training. One potential topic was in regard to activating the camera during high stress/rapidly evolving situations. An idea suggested by officers polled was to have repetitive training that would make activating the camera more instinctive like drawing a gun. Despite the concerns of some officers, many responding officers commented additional BWC training was not necessary. This included an additional Use of Force Report writing class for officers wearing body cameras.
One area of interest for both officers and citizens was the issue of respecting the privacy of citizens while using BWCs. The Washington State Attorney General authored an opinion in November 2014 which declared that conversations between the public and law enforcement were not generally considered to be private (link attached below.) By extension, this meant that officers need not request prior consent to record nor cease the recording upon request. Officers felt the guidance provided by SPD during the pilot program was not sufficient for navigating some of the situations they encountered when it came to privacy.
The SPD should develop a matrix or training memo that addresses the privacy concerns expressed by officers and citizens.
The SPD legal advisor, Mary Muramatsu, completed an extensive training document providing specific guidance on the legal issues associated with the use of BWCs.
The statements above by Schwering make it very plain that Officers are very concerned they don’t know what they are doing, and the reason they don’t is because there is NO Definitive Washington State Law Regarding Body Cameras! We are in trouble especially since in Mary Muramatsu’s comments to the Attorney General regarding his opinion she was all over the place. Not only do I know from personal experience that you CAN NOT hand a cop a training document regarding Washington Privacy Law and expect them to completely understand it, I also know it is difficult enough to get them to understand privacy issues when there is Definitive Washington State Law and Significant Case Law.
Here is just a small portion of comments I’ve made regarding body cameras. I’m not sure if the SR will delete them after I publish this but if they do I’ve got screenshots for documentation.