General Order 61.2
MOBILE AUDIO/VIDEO RECORDING

Last Revised: 7/22/11

SUBJECT: MOBILE AUDIO/VIDEO RECORDING

This order consists of the following numbered sections:

61.2.1    Policy

61.2.2    Procedure

61.2.3    Legal requirements

61.2.4    Retention and dissemination

61.2.5    Prohibited actions

61.2.1 Policy

Mobile audio/video recording equipment is made available to commissioned employees for the purpose of officer safety, evidence collection and assistance in investigations. This equipment also serves to protect officers from false or inaccurate accusations stemming from citizen interactions, thus significantly reducing both the officer’s and the City’s exposure to liability.

All uniformed, commissioned personnel are expected to use audio/video recording equipment, as specified in this General Order, when the equipment is present in the vehicle being used and is in working order. Officers are also expected to be thoroughly familiar with the procedures for recording and preserving audio/video evidence.

61.2.2 Procedure

I.    These procedures apply to uniformed officers using vehicles equipped with functional mobile audio and video recording devices.

II.    Mobile audio and video recording equipment will be activated and used to record the following circumstances:

1.    Traffic stops;

2.    Pursuits;

3.    Other responses where emergency equipment (i.e., lights and/or siren) is activated.

III.    At an officer’s discretion, mobile audio and/or video recording equipment may be activated to record the following situations:

1.    Arrests;

2.    Prisoner transportation;

3.    Field sobriety tests;

4.    Other citizen or suspect contacts that can be recorded readily from vehicle-mounted equipment.

IV.    An officer may elect to use video-only recording in the situations described in 61.2.1 (III.4). If video-only recording is done, the officer may choose to supplement his/her discretionary video recording with an audio description of the event for the purpose of clarifying any external factors that may not be apparent in the video (e.g., prior observations, road conditions, contributing circumstances, etc.).

V.    Use of recording equipment - officer responsibilities

A.    Test the audio/video equipment prior to beginning each shift. Report any equipment that is not fully functional to the shift supervisor without delay.

B.    Activate audio early. This permits narration of location, personal observations and other information that can be helpful to a later understanding of the totality of the conditions at the time the recording was made. Record as much of each violation/contact as possible.

C.    In the appropriate report, document that a portion of the incident was recorded and provide a brief description of what was recorded.

D.    Process mobile audio/video recordings that are evidence in criminal cases in the same manner as other electronically recorded evidence. [see General Order 83.2]

E.    Should mobile audio/video equipment become non-functional of fail to function properly during a shift, the shift supervisor should be notified without delay to facilitate prompt repair and to establish temporary exemption from 61.2.2(II).

61.2.3 Legal requirements

I.    Two-party consent is not applicable. RCW 9.73.090 (1)(c) provides that the statutory two party consent requirements [see RCW 9.73.030 - 9.73.080] do not apply to police when sound recordings that correspond to video images are recorded by video cameras mounted in law enforcement vehicles, provided that the officer making such a recording is in uniform at the time. A sound recording device which makes a recording pursuant to subsection (1)(c) must be operated simultaneously with the video camera. No sound recording device shall be intentionally turned off during the operation of the video camera.

II.    Mandatory advisement is required for sound recording. During initial recorded contact with a citizen, the officer will advise the person that a sound recording is being made. The advisement will include the following statement:

“ . . . a sound recording of this contact is being made, as permitted by State law.”

The required advisement must be included on the recording. For that reason, both audio and video recording devices must be activated prior to contact with the citizen, and those devices are to remain active until the contact is completed.

The exception to the advisement requirement is that officers are not required to inform the person being recorded if exigent circumstances are present. When the exigency exception is used, a description of the circumstances will be documented in an appropriate report.

III.    Advisement is not required for video-only recording. Subsection (1)(c) does not require an officer who is making a discretionary video-only recording, as authorized in 61.2.2(IV), to inform the person that the event is being recorded by video.

IV.    Special requirements for recording arrested subjects. [RCW 9.73.090 (1)(b)]

A.    Video and/or sound recordings may be made of arrested persons by police officers responsible for making arrests or holding persons in custody before their first appearance in court.

B.    Such video and/or sound recordings shall conform strictly to the following:

1.    The arrested person shall be informed that such recording is being made and the statement so informing him shall be included in the recording;

2.    The recordings shall only be used for valid police or court activities.

V.    Citizen permission is not required. The RCW authorizes the audio/video recording of citizens during law enforcement officer contacts, even if the citizen being contacted objects.

61.2.4 Retention and dissemination

I.    No sound or video recording made with mobile audio/video recording equipment will be duplicated and made available to the public until final disposition of any criminal or civil litigation which arises from the event or events which were recorded. [RCW 9.73.090(I)(c)]

II.    Recordings made with mobile audio/video equipment are retained as follows:

A.    Recordings that are evidence in criminal cases are retained in accordance with the rules of evidence.

B.    Recordings that are not used as evidence in a criminal proceeding are retained according to the State retention schedule.

III.    Recordings are retained on tape, CD, DVD or other appropriate media.

61.2.5 Prohibited actions

I.    No person shall intentionally erase, alter or otherwise tamper with, or attempt to erase, alter or tamper with any audio or video recording made on the Department’s mobile audio/video recording equipment. This prohibition shall not prevent making copies of recordings or destroying recordings as required by this General Order or State law.

II.    The Department’s mobile audio and video recording equipment shall be used only for the bona fide business of the Department.

III.    No recording made pursuant to this General Order shall be used for commercial purposes. [RCW 9.73.090(I)(c)]