12 Seattle police officers to start testing body cameras next week

SEATTLE -- For the first time, Seattle police officers will hit the streets wearing body cameras. Next week, a new pilot program launches to test out several different types of cameras.

"I think it is important that this is a tool for both the safety of the officers and the safety of the public in the issues around accountability. By itself, it is not going to be an answer,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said.

At a news conference Thursday, Murray and Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole stood alongside two of the 12 officers who volunteered to wear the cameras.

The officers will record traffic stops, arrests, and other police activity. As part of the pilot program, police will let people know when they are recording unless a crime is in progress.

Officers are not allowed to record public protests, but can turn the cameras on if they spot someone breaking the law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington expressed concerns about the use of the body cameras.

“While body cameras are being touted to have value in providing police oversight and police accountability, you know, they raise concerns related to individual privacy, government surveillance, and the ability for officers to turn them off,” said Jared Friend, of ACLU-Washington.

The police officers will use cameras designed by Taser International and VIEVU. Each camera will be tested for 60-90 days.

Murray said the cost of the pilot project is $150,000.