Privacy Law

Seattle Sues Lawyer Who Requests Police Dash-Cam Videos


Updated: The city of Seattle filed suit (PDF) against an attorney for requesting copies of police dash-cam videos.

Seattle lawyer James Egan learned of the suit Wednesday, after he had appealed the city’s earlier decision to reject his citizen’s request for 36 dash-cam videos that showed possible violations by Seattle Police, reports Seattle’s King 5 TV.

Although Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says the city will abide by the court’s decision, Egan told King 5 TV that the Washington privacy act prevents the footage from being made public until the final disposition of related litigation. That is, until the officers can no longer be sued for what they did in the video.

“The idea that you can’t get a video until three years later is self protectionism,” Egan said, according to the station’s report. “They don’t want the public to know the skeletons in their closets.”

In a statement to the ABA Journal, Holmes’ office said, “The City is faced with a dilemma. While the state’s Public Records Act mandates broad disclosure of public records, another state law, the Privacy Act, makes it a crime to wrongfully disclose a copy of a police dash cam recording to the public. The PRA allows a public agency to file a declaratory judgment action to get a court’s guidance when it is faced with this sort of dilemma. The City is taking the appropriate steps to make sure that it complies with the law and minimizes potential liability.”

Updated at 12:42 p.m. to include the city attorney’s statement.

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