Seattle PD turns to YouTube, hackathon for body cam video dissemination

Seattle PD turns to hackathon, YouTube for video transparency

Like many law enforcement offices expanding their use of police body cameras, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) was looking for a way to increase the transparency and accountability of the devices while respecting the privacy rights of citizens.

But before SPD could post the video from body or dashboard cameras online, it needed a way to remove faces and voices from the video.

The SPD says it has over 1.5 million videos from the last five years of 911 responses and interviews with witnesses, which equates to 364 terabytes of space, according to a report in the Seattle Times. Mike Wagers, SPD’s chief operating officer, told the Times the department was burning 7,000 disks each month to meet requests from the public.

Manual efforts to redact the video before release was time consuming, up to a half hour for a one minute video. So the SPD turned to the local tech community for a solution and held a hackathon to come up with a tool for automated video redaction. 

One of the solutions proposed during the hackathon was capable of blurring portions of video much more efficiently, a new process that could redact four hours of video in a half day.  

SPD is testing some of these tools in the department’s new body-worn camera pilot project. The resulting video is debuting on the SPD BodyWornVideo YouTube page.

Wagers said the new YouTube channel and ongoing development of video redaction tools enhances public trust and “demonstrates SPD’s commitment to working with local tech talent to transform the Seattle Police Department into a national leader when it comes to its use of technology.”

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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