The Sequim Police Department is moving forward with officers wearing in-field, body-worn cameras.
Police chief Sheri Crain said she anticipates a soft roll-out this fall before full implementation by the end of the year.
“I think it’s the way of the future,” she said.
Sequim City Council members on Sept. 12 agreed to a five-year contract with LensLock for about $45,000 per year.
Each of Sequim’s 20 officers will receive a body-worn camera, and dash cams will be installed in police vehicles that capture feeds of the front and back of the car, and backseat, according to police staff.
Tiffany Banning, the police department’s support services supervisor, applied for and received a $40,000 Small, Rural, and Tribal Body-Worn Camera grant through the Department of Justice to offset most of the first year’s expenses.
According to the city council’s meeting report, police officers and civilians tested five vendors’ body-worn cameras in 2021 and this year.
Staff said they considered cameras and software programs’ ease of use, redaction abilities and more.
Crain said they tested each camera system for about a month with officers wearing them about one week and civilian staff working the remainder of the month on familiarizing themselves with the software’s capabilities.
How to best handle public records requests for video in a timely manner was part of their decision, too, city staff said.
Crain said city staff do a good job with requests and “the community is very thoughtful and well meaning” (with those requests.
“Part of the decision was for ease of redaction,” Crain said, as people in private and/or public spaces may need to be blurred out for various legal reasons.
“We’ll be keeping an eye on the amount of work that will be required in the requests,” she said.
Sequim officer Daniel Martinez said he was surprised when he joined the department it didn’t use body-worn cameras. At his previous departments, they had the cameras, and there were constant reminders around the departments to turn them off and on, he said.
Body-worn cameras have been in the Sequim Police Department’s last two strategic plans, Crain said.
“Cameras will build the most complete picture of what happened,” she said.
Police staff said they interviewed 12 other agencies in the northwest using LensLock and that the company’s products received good reviews.
Sequim police will be the first in Clallam County to fully implement body-worn cameras.
For Clallam County Sheriff’s Department and Port Angeles Police Department, their leaders are both waiting to see how Sequim’s body-worn cameras work out.
“I am viewing Sequim’s program as a county-wide pilot program and we will closely partner to see how the program rolls out and adjust our planning accordingly,” said Brian King, chief criminal deputy for the sheriff’s department.
He added that the Clallam County Prosecutor’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in the county prefer to keep software/hardware the same for compatibility and ease of use if the cameras are implemented.
Port Angeles Police chief Brian Smith said they’ve tested body-worn cameras before and aspire to deploy a system, too.
“We face similar challenges in that we have to fund the purchase and fund additional staff time to manage and disseminate the records when requested,” he said.
With more calls for services than Sequim, and 32 officers and two more working code enforcement, he said their costs will be more including adding up to a full-time employee to handle public requests.
“We will look closely at what happens in Sequim to see if our cost and time estimates are realistic,” Smith said.
He said proposed legislation could fund body-worn cameras for Port Angeles that Smith estimates to be about $75,000-$100,000.
On the North Olympic Peninsula, the City of Port Townsend’s Police Department agreed to begin using body-worn cameras in Sept. 2019, while Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department implemented body-worn cameras this year.