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Supreme Court restores open access to Seattle PD’s dashcams

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Washington restored the public access to Seattle Police Department (SPD) dashcams. The Supreme Court decision cleared a storm brewing here for years. Click and see what they have to hide.

The perception of police brutality in Seattle has drawn fire for the frequency and intensity of some of the interactions like this one caught on video by a casual cell phone on a bright summer day.

The action today by the Supreme Court specifies access for any and all of the video recordings of SPD dashboard-mounted cameras excepting only the ones involving litigation.

The entire court found the department had violated the law by restricting access when SPD officials told KOMO Reporter Tracy Vedder that no response records are available – no list of audio recordings or dash-cams videos.

The 5-4 decision finds: “Neither the statutory text nor the legislative history suggests that categorical delay was legislative purpose,” the majority opinion as written by Justice Steven Gonzalez, joined by Justices Charles Johnson, Debra Stephens, Sheryl Gordon McCloud and Justice Pro Tem. James Johnson.

"Any journalist, any activist, any citizen who's just had a rough time with a police agency now has this tool available to them." – Eric Rachner

Eric Rachner had fought the stonewalling SPD for years to see videos of his own arrest. He and his attorney James Egan spoke today addressing the positive outcomes from the ruling by the Supreme Court.

Attorney James Egan reflected on the ruling, emphasing the positive outcomes against the backdrop of SPD’s reputation for excessive force.

"I understand that transparency's hard, but transparency is what happened as a consequence of your lawsuit," Egan said.

Supreme Court: Dash cams in cop cars are ours – citizens, media, me and you too

Celebrating the victory for the people of Seattle, City Councilman Bruce Harrell, the head of the Public Safety Committee, applauded the ruling and doesn't anticipate any problems with SPD following through.

"We have to be transparent, we have to give information, give video upon demand," Harrell said. "And I think this is good for the public."

For years, the SPD had violated the Records Act, which specifies public rights to this data. The stonewalling by the SPD has brought a backlash from the community, led here by the Seattle TV station KOMO in case: Fisher Broad. V. City of Seattle, docket number 87271-6.

In a statement on KOMO.com, KOMO News Director Holly Gauntt summed up years of abuse of power by SPD: "Police have always used them to defend themselves, or in their cases against citizens." Holly's parting thoughts reflect clear light on today’s action by the Supreme Court: "Now citizens have the same right."

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