Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New body camera bill, new ICP position

In February, 23rd Legislative District Representative and Bainbridge resident Drew Hansen introduced a state police body camera bill that many people, including board members at ICP, found objectionable. The motivations behind HB 1917 were great—get more police officers wearing body cameras, protect the privacy of people filmed in police encounters—but the results were pretty awful. The original bill dramatically limited public access to police recordings, did away with the consent requirement to record, and would have permitted local police departments to have camera programs without any rules or requirements.  

If you don’t succeed, try try again. Instead of digging in his heels when hit with criticism about his bill, Rep. Hansen made some changes. A new bill was put forward as a potential amendment, and may be considered by the House as early as this week. It’s a vast improvement. The new bill:

-guarantees that people involved in police-filmed incidents, oversight agencies, and the general public have access to police cam footage (people directly involved in incidents don’t have to pay for requests; the public may have to pay for costs connected to redaction)

-defines some things that are private, and not available to the public (footage taken in someone’s home, footage of nudity, footage taken of a minor)

-ensures that police departments using body cameras have some basic policies in place (like rules controlling when cameras are turned on or off)

-puts requirements in place that make sweeping, open ended requests for footage near-impossible (requesters need to know something about recordings before they are able to request them—the officer’s name, or the name of someone involved, or a date or case number)

-contains provisions to protect people who bring complaints and/or whistleblowers

-finally, the new bill creates a task force to consider the law’s effects, and sunsets much of the bill in two years. This increases the odds that problems can be identified and remedied.

ICP commends Rep. Hansen for being open to criticism, and flexible in his approach. We support the increased use of police body cameras--and his amended bill.

 The Amended Bill is referred to as striking amendment H2247 and is available here

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

ICP Letter to the House Public Safety Committee in Support of the "Douglas M. Ostling Act"--Statewide Crisis Intervention Training

Dear Representatives Orwell, Hayes, Klippert, and Goodman:

When a police officer encounters a person in mental or behavioral crisis, the outcome can be awful or inspiring. We all know horrible stories about officers killing people with mental illness because the person in crisis acted erratically or failed to obey commands. But we know, from working with officers in Kitsap County, that police with crisis intervention training are better prepared and often de-escalate frightening situations, keeping confused and agitated people safe while protecting those around them.

We also know, from working with police in our county, that CIT-trained officers do more than stabilize scary situations. We are proud to know officers who provide comfort to people tortured by their mental conditions, counsel family members desperate for advice, and take personal interest in finding people assistance. At a time when the news is focused on officer use of force across the country, it’s worth acknowledging that many police officers use their intelligence and their training to help people in need, and resolve incredibly difficult situations every day.

Will a few hours of state mandated CIT training eliminate tragic outcomes when police encounter people suffering from mental illness? It would be foolish to think so. But the new training requirements will make good outcomes more likely.

As importantly, passing SB 5311 sends an important signal—both to the Criminal Justice Training Center and to police agencies across the state—that policing in Washington is about helping people as well as promoting public safety. We support SB 5311 because we support efforts—promoted by CJTC’s Executive Director Sue Rahr--to promote a “guardian” style of policing. SB 5311 will improve police response to mental illness, and, in doing so, it will improve overall police performance and enhance the safety of Washington citizens. The state legislature has the opportunity, with this law, to remind police and the public that policing is a humane, service-oriented profession. We strongly encourage you to support SB 5311 when it comes before the Public Safety Committee tomorrow.


Scott Anderson
Kent Bridwell
Kim Hendrickson
Dennis Tierney
Board Members, Islanders for Collaborative Policing

Information about the Douglas M. Ostling Act/SB 5311 here.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Results of Officer Survey Released

In January and February, ICP surveyed police officers throughout Kitsap County. Our goals were to get a better sense of how often police encounter people with mental and behavioral health issues, to gauge how new mental health initiatives are being received by front line officers, and to find out what new programs and resources officers think are most needed to help people suffering from mental illness.

The results? A vast majority of officers (67%) think a crisis triage center is the thing most needed, right now, to help people suffering from acute mental illness. 71% tell us that their interaction with people with mental/behavioral issues has increased in the last year. And there is overwhelming support for the new, county wide, Crisis Intervention Officer program which kicked off last year.

See the full results here

ICP Opposes Shortsighted Body Cam Bill

A few months ago, President Obama expressed strong support for police body cameras, and asked Congress to fund local camera programs. This week, he took a different approach, talking about the problems that arise when cameras are used and cautioning the public not to expect too much from developments in this area. The Community Police Commission in Seattle has aso modified its thinking on the issue, first supporting a pilot program for Seattle police officers and now advising against the broader adoption of cameras by the SPD ("the issues are complex, the CPC explains, and "there is a need to engage our communities before rushing to a final position").

With these concerns in mind, the Board of ICP opposes House Bill 1917. This bill was written to encourage more police departments to use body cameras by changing the Public Records Act to dramatically limit who gets to see camera footage. If this law passes, police departments would have near-complete discretion over who can, and can't, look at recordings. The right to view would be restricted to those directly involved in an incident and those tenacious enough to obtain access by court order. 

 We agree: a new state law is needed to protect the privacy of those who are recorded in police encounters. But HB 1917 goes too far. We urge our state representatives to vote against this bill and find a better way to balance privacy and accountability interests.

Save the date: ICP forum on police body cameras coming in May
Details to follow.