spd's double standard

The SPD's Double Standard

As They Demand Protest Video, Police Are Fighting Release of Their Own Videos in Court

The SPD's Double Standard
Ian Buck

On May 7, subpoenas from the Seattle Police Department started flying around town, landing at all of Seattle's mainstream media outlets and demanding that they quickly turn over video and still pictures of the destructive May Day protests.
The next day, SPD assistant chief Jim Pugel announced that his department was receiving "complete cooperation" in its effort to use local media materials—both published and unpublished—to investigate and prosecute the May Day protesters who smashed windows at Niketown and caused other illegal disturbances.

There were two problems with Pugel's statement. One, he actually was not getting "complete cooperation" from the local media; all subpoenaed outlets (except the Seattlepi .com, which declined to comment) told The Stranger that they were withholding certain demanded materials from the police and, in the meantime, consulting their lawyers. Two, the kind of cooperation Pugel was counting on—the sharing of video between media and police in order to expose misdeeds—is something his own department doesn't want to do when the shoe is on the other foot and it's the media asking for tapes.
Holly Gauntt, news director for KOMO TV (and vice president for news at the station's parent company, Fisher Communications), said KOMO had received a subpoena and, in response, had provided the police with video that had already been aired. "But we are not giving them raw video," Gauntt said. Meaning, she wasn't handing over the original footage. "The shield law protects us from having to do that, and we are going to avail ourselves of that."
Further, Gauntt noted a frustrating irony to the current situation, given that KOMO has been trying for a long time—first through normal channels and then in court—to get the police to turn over copies of their patrol car dash-cam videos. "They want video from me, and I had to file a lawsuit to get video from them," she said.
The dispute over the dash-cam videos has already led KOMO and the SPD into King County Superior Court, and could soon take them to the Washington State Supreme Court.
KOMO filed a lawsuit only after it had invoked public disclosure laws "several times to try to get dash-cam video from police cruisers," Gauntt explained. "In light of all the police issues they've had with brutality, it seemed like a logical request from us— because we knew there were other incidents. But they stonewalled us, and stonewalled us, and stonewalled us, for two years. So we finally filed a lawsuit."
A month ago, King County Superior Court judge Jim Rogers ruled that the police can keep dash-cam video for up to three years after an incident before turning it over. The problem: Police retention policies call for the destruction of dash-cam video at three years.
All of which has caused KOMO to ask the Washington State Supreme Court to intervene.
"I'm really frustrated by it," Gauntt said of the current situation. "I don't think it's fair that the SPD can come and use our video to show that their officers were in the right, or that others did something wrong, but they don't afford the public the same opportunity."
The SPD did not respond to a request for comment. recommended

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