Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office launches body camera test program

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it has started a test program to outfit selected sheriff’s office deputies with body-worn cameras.

In the initial test program, 12 body-worn cameras will be deployed to sheriff’s office deputies. The initial test program consists of three different body camera vendors that will each supply four test cameras to the sheriff’s office. The cameras will each be tested for a six-week period and will be worn by deputies in the Sheriff’s Office Violent Offender Task Force, patrol division and motors unit.

“I am a strong supporter and advocate for body-worn cameras for our deputies,” said Sheriff Adam Fortney. “Body cams will provide additional transparency, help build community trust, and will also provide an extra layer of protection for the men and women who are working patrol and serving our community each day. Our office has prioritized funding body cameras for every deputy sheriff as a top request in our 2022 budget package and we hope to have them for all of our deputies next year.”

“Body cameras are good for our law enforcement officers and good for our community,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “While not always perfect records of often chaotic events, cameras provide more objective documentation of encounters between law enforcement officers and members of the public. As we have seen nationwide, body-worn camera footage is essential for transparency and accountability. We know law enforcement cannot succeed at keeping the peace if our community doesn’t have faith in their actions. Cameras will help build and maintain trust, ensuring there are recordings when encounters are disputed. This is an important step to better serving everyone in our community.”

Noting that “the safety of our community has always been the county’s top priority,” Snohomish County Council Chair Stephanie Wright said the use of body cameras “will help provide crucial information to ensure accountability when interactions are in dispute. This is an important step forward in maintaining trust within our entire community, and I am in full support of providing body cameras for Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Deputies,” said Wright, who represents the cities of Edmonds, Woodway and Lynnwood on the council.

“We want to support our deputies and the members of the public who interact with them, and body cameras are an excellent way to lessen ambiguity and provide a reliable record,” said Snohomish County Councilmember Jared Mead, who represents the cities of Mountlake Terrace and Brier. “We will continue to find ways to improve our law and justice system for the good of all in our community.”

Throughout the test program, the sheriff’s office will familiarize staff with each vendor’s hardware, software and various features to help determine a requirements list which will be used to select a final vendor during the purchasing phase.

Executive Dave Somers, working with the county council, has committed to expanding the program until every deputy has a body cam. While the cameras themselves are relatively inexpensive, the public records retention and management are a significant ongoing cost.

If the sheriff’s office receives full funding to equip every deputy sheriff with a body-worn camera, purchasing will start next year and it is expected to take at least 12 months to roll out the cameras and software to all areas of the sheriff’s office.

Locally, the Edmonds  Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace police departments don’t yet have body-worn cameras in place. Edmonds police spokesperson Acting Assistant Chief Josh McClure said the department “is in the midst of getting a trial program launched,” with a proposal for the effort to be included in the department’s 2022 budget. Lynnwood police, meanwhile, have equipment on order. And the City of Mountlake Terrace has discussed the idea numerous time but there are “no firm plans as yet” to implement, said Police Chief Pete Caw.

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