The police aren’t often fond of publishing body camera and dashcam footage online, but not necessarily for nefarious reasons, the volume of privacy-focused video editing they require can prove overwhelming. In Seattle, for example, a flood of public disclosure requests from an anonymous programmer risked scuttling a body cam trial run before it got off the ground. However, that one-time antagonist is now coming to the city’s rescue. The man has agreed to help Seattle’s police department publish video by showing them how to quickly redact clips and get them online.
A Seattle police plan to outfit officers with body cameras was back on for early December after the agency struck an unusual deal with an anonymous programmer whose massive public-records requests threatened to cripple the program, police said on Friday. The programmer, who operates a YouTube channel of 911 calls, surveillance and police footage, had bombarded the department with requests for video content from police cameras, which the department said it lacks the funds and staff to quickly fulfill. The programmer agreed to drop his requests if given videos in a deal that would then see him advise the department on thorny tech issues related to public-records requests for videos, such as how to more quickly redact footage and how to store it online for easy access by the public, media and lawyers. “Under the law, they get requests regardless of whether or not I go away, and they view what I do as part of the solution,” the programmer, a man in his 20s, told reporters at a joint news conference with police in which he declined to reveal his identity. In Washington state, which has some of the most robust open records laws in the nation, police reports and almost all other information about officers’ contact with citizens is accessible to the public.