Body cameras? Renton is starting talks again

After four years the city is considering the new equipment

Body cameras continue to be in the early talks at Renton Police Department, after an initial pilot program in 2016.

A mayor newsletter last week stated that police were looking at adding body cameras, in an effort to protect officers and residents.

“Body cameras help increase transparency and public trust by offering an unbiased video recording of interactions between officers and the public,” Mayor Denis Law stated in the newsletter, also adding he would keep residents informed as the department moves forward.

When the Reporter reached out to Renton Police Department regarding what step it’s at with body cameras, Cmdr. David Leibman stated in an email that the department did “not have enough info to speak on the topic.” He also stated that the department “had not given them too much thought” and that there wasn’t more information beyond what was presented in the mayor’s newsletter.

But in 2016, the department went through a pilot program using body cameras, with 10 police officers being equipped with cameras from two possible companies. The department then created a policy for body cameras, and selected one of the camera vendors. The same year, the state Legislature passed engrossed house bill 2362, that provided certain protections to any department that had deployed body cameras, including piloting them, by June 2016.

This year the discussion came back as Police Chief Ed VanValey told councilmembers in March the department has a good plan and decent estimate in costs in adding body cameras.

On March 11, VanValey briefed council on where the department is at with body cameras.

But nothing has happened since then. At that meeting, VanValey said it was because the department is measuring the “impact” that body cameras have on nearby agencies. Tukwila, for example, didn’t ask for additional employees after adding body cameras and now their public records requests are overwhelmed, he said, going through redacting the videos to blur or beep out confidential protections, like license plate numbers.

Kent also recently started a pilot program for the cameras. VanValey said they’re “actively measuring” Seattle, Tukwila and Kent’s pilot to see how those departments handle it. He said he wants Renton to put forth a package that would take care of the extra workload, including three additional record’s staff, and maybe add staff to the attorney’s office and IT. He also pointed out that Auburn, Federal Way and King County Sheriff’s Office haven’t started body cameras.

VanValey told council cameras are a huge commitment for a lot of money. He said there’s at least $1 million cost within the first year.

“For officers, it’s easy. I wear a camera, my policy says when it’s on and off, and it’ll automatically download to the station,” he told council. “For the records retention, that’s where the bulk of the work comes, and the costs.”

Mayor Denis Law also said at the meeting entertainment companies also frequently request these videos. The body camera technology and rules around them are also constantly changing, Law said. The city wants to make sure they don’t underestimate what they need to roll out the cameras.

Councilmembers and VanValey talked about legislation being key in creating reasonable blocks to access to videos.

“(Body cameras are) the best thing for the officer, because it shows they’re doing their job right,” Persson said.

The Reporter has asked for an interview with VanValey, but no response was given by press time.

More in News

Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, the primary sponsor of SB 5323, speaking on the bill. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Sabio-Howell)
Proposed law adds a fee to plastic bags at checkout

Senate passes bill to ban single-use plastic bags, place 8-cent fee on reusable plastic bags.

In November 2019, Washington voters approved Initiative 976, which calls for $30 car tabs. Sound Publishing file photo
Republicans try to guarantee $30 car tabs amid court hangup

Lawmakers sponsor companion bills in the House and Senate.

King County Metro’s battery-electric bus. Photo courtesy of
King County could bump up Metro electrification deadlines

Transportation generates nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Opponent of the Energize Eastside project, Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sustainable Energy (CENSE) president Don Marsh presents to the Renton Hearing Examiner during a public hearing, Jan. 8, for the project.
Contention over Energize Eastside

PSE, the public and opponents discuss issues for 5 hours

Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 2020 State of the State Address on Tuesday, Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Office of the Governor)
Gov. Inslee delivers State of the State Address

By Leona Vaughn, WNPA News Service OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee stood… Continue reading

REA board voted out

Union members use their power to remove leaders from office

Renton schools closed Tuesday for icy road conditions

Schools went from a two hour late start, to closed for Jan. 14

A 50-minute film called “Spawning Grounds,” which documents the effort to save a freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish, is finally ready for its debut in North Bend on Jan. 18. (Screenshot from film)
Spawning Grounds: Lake Sammamish kokanee documentary premieres Jan. 18

The film tracks the ‘all hands on deck’ effort to save the little red fish from extinction.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Have you visited the Highlands new brewhouse? The new Bickersons Brewhouse opened on Nov. 9. Two months later, Jan. 9, business leaders and the Renton Chamber of Commerce celebrated its opening with a ribbon cutting, featuring owners Frank Castro and Shaunn Siekawitch. Go bicker with the “Bickersons” at 4710 NE Fourth St., Renton.
Ribbon cut for new Renton brewhouse

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Have you visited the Highlands new brewhouse? The… Continue reading

Most Read