Monroe traffic officer Javier Patton turns on his body camera before heading out on patrol on June 8, 2017. Officers like Patton record their whole shift and then upload to servers at the end of their day. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Monroe traffic officer Javier Patton turns on his body camera before heading out on patrol on June 8, 2017. Officers like Patton record their whole shift and then upload to servers at the end of their day. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Lake Stevens starts charging for police body camera footage

The city will charge $0.84 per minute of staff time spent on redacting video footage.

LAKE STEVENS — Lake Stevens is the latest Snohomish County city to charge people money for police body camera footage.

In July, the City Council voted to charge $0.84 per minute of staff time spent on redaction, with the first dollar waived. Redaction can involve blurring segments of the video, blurring the entire video or removing audio to remove the identifying features of anyone recorded on camera.

Under state law, the city is allowed to charge for staff time spent on redacting footage. In an eight-month study in which staff used a stopwatch to measure time spent on redaction, the city estimated it took between two and four minutes to redact a minute of footage.

Anyone requesting to see body camera video will also have to pay 10% of the estimated redaction cost as a deposit prior to the city processing the request.

These costs don’t apply to anyone who is “directly involved” in a recorded incident, or an attorney representing someone recorded by a body camera, per state law. Costs also don’t apply to executive directors on the state commissions for African-American Affairs, Asian-Pacific Affairs or Hispanic Affairs.

Last year, staff spent 1,382 hours fulfilling all public records requests, according to city documents. The city spent $93,000 on staff time, $12,000 for its records request system and $19,000 in records-related legal advice.

The city recovered $95 through records fees last year.

Since the launch of the body camera program last July, the Lake Stevens Police Department had received 71 requests for body cam footage, including 49 requests in 2023, as of last week.

Because the fee schedule was recently implemented, the police department has not tracked the number of requests from people who were not involved in the video they’re requesting, police records supervisor Megan LeBlanc said.

Local police departments largely started using body cams after a 2021 state law required law enforcement to record some interrogations.

The Marysville Police Department charges $0.69 per minute of staff time spent on redaction. Between January and May, the department fulfilled 44 requests for footage. Some requests took just five or 10 minutes, while others took between five and 12 hours, records indicate. The time to fulfill a request is not necessarily equivalent to time spent on redaction. Searching for, exporting and uploading files may also take staff time.

Monroe charges $0.79 per minute. Monroe received 172 video requests between September 2018 and May 2023.

Everett police charge $58.74 per hour of redaction time, with the cost prorated based on the redaction time. Since 2020, Everett had received 538 requests for body camera footage as of April. The average time to complete the request was 27.34 days, based on the most recent 482 requests.

Fees in Snohomish County cities are higher than some others in Washington. In Tacoma, body camera footage costs $0.49 for every minute of redaction time. Tukwila and Seattle charge $0.60 per minute.

In 2014, the added expenses of public records requests caused Bremerton to hold off on a body camera program. Bremerton now charges $60 per hour of video.

Last month, the council in Lake Stevens also voted to waive the first dollar in fees for other public records requests, instead of the previous rule of the first $5.

Surya Hendry: 425-339-3104;; Twitter: @suryahendryy.

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