Seattle city auditor to review SPD's dashcam footage policies

Seattle city auditor to review SPD's dashcam footage policies
SEATTLE -- The city auditor's office will review the Seattle Police Department's policies and procedures surrounding the use of dashcam footage.

Seattle City Council member Nick Licata requested the review after hearing about the case regarding Eric Rachner.

"Just to find out how often requests for videos are made of police department, and how often are they not retained or can't be found.. That simple task is turning out to be a huge task," he said.

Rachner was arrested in 2008 for refusing to show his identification. After his arrest, Rachner made numerous requests for the dashcam video of the incident, convinced the footage would prove his innocence. But police refused to provide him with the footage, claiming it did not exist.

The city ultimately dropped charges of obstruction against Rachner, but he is now suing the department, claiming wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution and intentionally concealing video evidence to hide officer misconduct.

But Rachner is not the only one who has had problems accessing SPD's dash cam video. A Problem Solver investigation discovered that the police department's system has lost thousands of dash cam videos, but the department never notified any public defender agencies and requests for video are routinely denied.

"Yes, a lot of video has disappeared and there have been efforts to recover them, to restore them," said Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb.

Licata says the Office Of Professional Accountability has also been unable to access dashcam video during their investigations.

Licata said he doesn't believe the department is purposely hiding video footage, but added whatever the case, the citizens stand to lose.

"Basically, it's their word against the police officer's word. And I kept asking myself, 'What happened to these videos? We had videos in almost all patrol cars. Why aren't they being turned on, and if they are being turned on, what happens to them?'"

KOMO News is also suing the Seattle Police Department. The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, contends the police department has intentionally and illegally stonewalled the Problem Solvers over and over again.

Rachner has developed a website using the police department's video database so anyone can find out what happened to their video evidence.

"This database is the key," he said.