Cop Body Cam

[11/27/16]  In exchange for money and materiel offered by the federal Department of Homeland Security, many local police departments and sheriffs’ offices have been joined with the federal surveillance state in Fusion Centers and are required to share intelligence, data, and images with their federal overlords.

This relationship has come under scrutiny in many parts of the country where constitutionalists and civil liberties activists see the sharing as a threat to privacy and to personal freedom.

One such controversy has arisen in Seattle, where police are about to deploy body cameras and law enforcement administrators are considering how to deal with the demand that will surely come from DHS to be given access to all the information recorded by the new equipment.

“We’ve been asking for a year for answers to a simple question about whether SPD is obliged to share video with federal security/intelligence agencies, and if not required, whether they will,” said Community Police Commission co-chair Lisa Daugaard, as reported by the blog CrossCut.

In a remarkably frank admission, Daugaard says these questions wouldn’t have come up had Donald Trump not been elected president.

Worries about what the federal government might do with the data, Daugaard says, would have been “unwarranted under Obama,” but with Donald Trump in the White House, cooperation with DHS would be “reckless.”

Reckless or not, there’s no way Homeland Security will let the Seattle Police Department refuse to upload the body camera data to the federal servers. The only reason the cops have the cameras is because DHS gave them a $600,000 grant for their purchase.

For now, the deployment of the body cameras is being delayed. The police previously had no problem putting them on officers’ uniforms because of “trust in the Obama administration,” but they’re taking the rollout slowly since Election Day 2016.

Just who will have access to the information collected by the cameras once they are part of the police’s everyday carry? Apart from a list of local and state agencies, CrossCut reports that “federal U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (still known as ATF)” will also be on the distribution list.

Of course, the federal DHS is the first in line to look at and log the images collected by the body cameras given the existence of a Fusion Center in Seattle.

The Seattle Police Department counts eight DHS employees on its roster.