Cop Car interior
A series of lawsuits are being filed against the Seattle police over "dash-cam" videos from cameras inside police vehicles that aren't being released to the public. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Seattle Police Department is being sued over blocking the release of dash-cam videos recorded by the cameras mounted in Seattle police cruisers. The Seattle dash-cam lawsuit could have been settled years ago by police simply releasing their footage.

Plaintiff says he did nothing illegal

Eric Rachner, a 35-year-old Seattle man, is in a legal battle with the Seattle Police Department, according to the Seattle Times, because the department won’t release video shot during his arrest.

In October of 2008, Rachner was arrested while out with friends. Police stopped them, and Rachner refused to identify himself, which is not legally mandatory. He was arrested for obstruction of justice. One officer bragged to colleagues he arrested Rachner because he “acted edjumicated.”

Video tape battle in Seattle

Rachner filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Accountability, the civilian-run oversight organization of the Seattle Police Department. Immediately after he filed the complaint, the city filed obstruction charges against Rachner that were later dropped because the prosecution lacked proof.

Rachner received one dash-cam video recorded from a police cruiser’s dashboard camera during his criminal case but learned of six others that police refused to release.

Refusal to disclose

Rachner sued the Seattle police in 2008 for covering up the existence of the six other videos from the night of his arrest and other records pertaining to his case. He won a judgement against them in 2010, but filed a subsequent lawsuit on Oct.6, 2011, for false arrest, “spoilation of video evidence” and “malicious prosecution.”

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Seattle Police Department is currently under federal investigation for not releasing video evidence from dash-cams when requested. Seattle news station KOMO, an ABC affiliate, filed a lawsuit against the SPD in September, claiming that the SPD had knowingly violated the Washington state Public Records Act. U.S. Attorney Mike McKay of Seattle has also sued the SPD for refusing to release records about criminal investigations and arrests.

Caught in the camera eye

Dash-cams can be vital in convicting offenders but can also be damning evidence of police misconduct.

According to WEWS, a┬áCanton, Ohio ABC affiliate, dash-cam videos of Ohio police officer Daniel Harless threatening to shoot or kill people during three traffic stops went viral over the summer, leading to an investigation into the officer’s conduct. Harless was put on leave in July and faces a disciplinary hearing this December, according to the Canton Repository.

Police dash-cam video from Des Moines, Wash., according to KTLA, a CW affiliate in Los Angeles, was released in January showing officers shooting a Labrador Retriever with a Taser and then shooting the dog dead while it ran from them.

In October of 2009, police stopped a woman for speeding in Montgomery, Ill. She filed a complaint the next day, according to NBCChicago. Montgomery police arrested her for obstruction of justice several months later, claiming she shut the car window on officers during the traffic stop. Dash-cam video showed she never did. She sued for false arrest and racial profiling in March.


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Canton Rep:




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