8/28/2014

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'Glitch' in SPD dashcam system could cause problems

'Glitch' in SPD dashcam system could cause problems

SEATTLE -- Seattle Police have uncovered a problem with their dashboard camera video system.  A "glitch" has caused what's called dropped frames or missing images in some of the videos, causing potential problems for an unknown number of criminal cases.

Every single SPD cruiser is outfitted with a dashboard camera. It's set to automatically turn on whenever a car's lights and/or sirens are activated. And the video it records can be critical for both prosecutors and defendants. 

"These videos are critical; these videos have exonerated people," said defense Attorney James Egan

Last April the department upgraded it's dash-cam system to high-definition, but the upgrade had a glitch. Police officials, the King County Prosecutor's Office and the City Attorney's office all confirm that some of the videos recorded since then have what's called "dropped frames." 

A single second of video typically is made up of 30 separate frames. Dropping a single frame here or there may not make much of a difference, but the more frames that are missing the bigger the odds that either the video or the audio will be affected.  

"So if there's any aspect of it that's missing, that could raise a critical issue depending on what it was," Egan said.

Department officials say the glitch has been fixed, but they couldn't say how many videos were affected.

In 2011 a KOMO 4 Problem Solver investigation revealed catastrophic failures in SPD's video system whereby thousands of videos had disappeared.  In that case, no prosecutors or public defenders were ever notified.

This time it appears prosecutors were at least warned of the potential problem, although City Attorney Communications Director Kimberly Mills says the notification was made, "only recently".

The King County Prosecutor's Office also says they've just recently been made aware of the issue and don't know the extent of the problem.

Egan is glad that this time around SPD is at least advising prosecutors of the issue. 

"They may not know the parameters right now but they need to look into it and be open and transparent about it," he said.

The City Attorney's Office adds they believe only small portions of a limited number of video are affected though they have brought in an independent forensic video expert to identify all the affected videos.

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