Auditor: 100,000 dashcam videos disappear from SPD database
(TRACY VEDDER) More than 100,000 dashcam videos have disappeared from the Seattle Police Department, prompting city investigators to recommend the department do a better job of tracking and saving those videos.
For more than a year, KOMO News fought for access to the department’s dashcam videos and video catalog to see if they show questionable behavior by officers.
Denied again and again, KOMO eventually sued.
As Seattle defends itself against that lawsuit, on Wednesday the city auditor released a report detailing the problems with how SPD handles dashcam videos and how it responds to the public’s request to see them.
The auditor found inconsistent documentation about whether videos requested by public disclosure were even found or sent. After 90 days, video is deleted and moved to a backup system, which the report said is too difficult to access. Additionally, the cameras themselves can shut down to preserve battery life, which prevents recording and delays the video from being uploaded after an officer’s shift.
But buried in the report is the fact that 105,000 videos disappeared in 2008 after two hardware failures.
That’s twice the number Eric Rachner discovered last year as he fought for access to video he said would clear him in a 2008 incident.
Prosecutors were never notified about the missing videos, which could be critical for any criminal or civil cases.
And while many videos were recovered and the system was replaced in 2009, the city auditor said more needs to be done now. The auditor called for a better way to track recordings, as well as improved technology and a more streamlined public-disclosure process and search system.
The city will vote on new patrol cars and an in-car video system at the end of the year. The auditor believes the rest of the recommendations can be implemented in the next six months.
In a statement released Wednesday evening, SPD said many of the deficiencies found in the auditor’s report have already been identified and the video system has been updated.
“We agree that storage and retrieval are concerns and we are working on ways to continue to improve upon our system. Equipping our officers with the best in-car video technology available so that they can use it more reliably is a priority for the department,” the statement reads.