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Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

Archive for June, 2010

Jun 30 2010

Press Release: Councilmember Harrell explores technical feasibility of placing cameras on all Seattle Police officers

Press Release issued on Wednesday, 6/30/2010:

Head or body mounted video cameras can provide additional perspective of events

Seattle – Councilmember Bruce Harrell has scheduled a special meeting of the Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee requesting the Department of Information Technology and the Seattle Police Department to provide an update on the feasibility of placing state of the art camera and video technology on Seattle Police Officers. This addition may assist the City’s public safety efforts and reduce potentially violent situations.

The discussion will take place during a special Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee meeting on Wednesday, July 7, 2010, at 12:00-1:00 p.m. Meetings are held in Council Chambers at City Hall and the public is encouraged to attend. The meeting will include a demonstration of the latest on-person video camera technologies.

“According to some police departments, body-mounted cameras should be the way of the future. Recent incidents have shown us that video is a powerful tool that can be used to the benefit of both citizens and officers,” said Councilmember Harrell.

Councilmember Tim Burgess, Chair of the Public Safety and Education Committee says, “We have been aggressively exploring new means to assist our officers and improve public safety and Seattle should consider the feasibility and usefulness of this technology. We now have the benefit of examining the deployment of cameras in other jurisdictions to determine the lessons learned and whether their application makes sense in Seattle.”

Recent pilot programs in the United Kingdom involving head mounted cameras on police have provided positive results. In the city of Plymouth in southwest England, footage recorded by officers was useful in public disorder cases. People who might normally dispute their charge decided not to after watching police video of their conduct. A similar pilot project is underway in San Jose, California, where 18 officers are using the technology.

“In Victoria and Scotland for example, trials are underway where police officers are equipped with body-worn cameras and the cameras have apparently made it easier to sustain charges and deter anti-social behavior. It also preserves a record of what occurs in the field which could be helpful for all involved,” said Councilmember Harrell.

While the Seattle Police Department is using video cameras in their vehicles, Councilmembers Harrell and Burgess want to examine the feasibility of expanding video camera use outside of the patrol car. The committee will discuss the costs and benefits and the possibility of moving forward with this initiative.

“There are several policy issues that this kind of initiative raises such as the extent to which it changes police working conditions and what protocols would be established for the use and archiving of camera footage, but those issues should be defined and addressed in conjunction with identifying the right technology or products,” says Councilmember Harrell.

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Jun 30 2010

I am gathering information on placing cameras on all Seattle Police Officers

Jennifer Samuels, a staff member from my office, recently spoke to Sgt. John Boren, San Jose Police Department’s research and development unit, where there is currently a head-mounted camera pilot project underway. The San Jose Police Department, a 1500-member department, has tested new technology and has provided input to make up Taser’s latest Axon model.

Sgt. Boren said, “The truth of the matter is that we want to protect our officers from invalid complaints. It’s about protecting our officers in the field. It’s about capturing evidence.” He said, “Taser provides excellent…evidence. It increases professionalism on the part of the officer and affects the behavior of the public.”

Officers in the San Jose Police Department saw empirical evidence that showed a change in the public’s behavior and improved professionalism on the part of officers.

Sgt. Boren stated that in a private home, if a resident asks you to turn it off, you must turn it off. However, in the streets, you can have it on — there are no privacy issues. He went on to say, “The system is capable of pretty impressive features. At some point, we will see what the officer sees real-time.”

When asked how does it save taxpayers? Sgt. Boren responded that when one major lawsuit is prevented and one shooting is captured, there is “a potential savings in civil liability.”

We are now just beginning our outreach to the public and discussions with City departments. Do let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you, and find out more about the issues and concerns. Contact me or my staff at jennifer.samuels@Seattle.gov.

Photo credit: Dai Sugano/San Jose Mercury News/AP

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Jun 29 2010

New Crime Data Map Provides Easy Access to Neighborhood Crime Information

http://web1.seattle.gov/mnm/policereports.aspx

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Jun 21 2010

City Light’s Customer Satisfaction Highly Rated

Published by under Seattle City Light

Our hard work is paying off! JD Power and Associates recently announced customer satisfaction with Seattle City Light increased in the first quarter of 2010, compared to the same period a year ago. Among all mid-sized western utilities, City Light ranks third. City Light received an overall score of 662 in one of the most competitive regions in the country.

City Light’s customer satisfaction has risen since 2008 when they received a score of 641. In 2009, the Utility scored 646 points for customer satisfaction of power quality and reliability, price, billing and payment, corporate citizenship, communications and customer service.

This year’s score of 662 is a great improvement and shows the team at City Light is working hard for you. I commend all of the great workers at the Utility for their commitment to serve the citizens of Seattle at a high level and we will continue to propose policies that will improve customer service.

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Jun 21 2010

Prohibiting Aggressive Panhandling is the Right Thing to Do, BUT…

Published by under Public Safety

…the recent ordinance known as the “Aggressive Panhandling” law was not the answer. As you may recall, the City Council narrowly passed the Aggressive Panhandling law 5-4, but it was vetoed by Mayor McGinn and failed 4-4 when the Council re-visited the legislation. Many of my friends and supporters believed this law symbolized a much needed step toward improving some of the deplorable conditions affecting downtown Seattle and other neighborhood business areas. The proposed law took unlawful conduct (panhandling by use of harassment or intimidation) and allowed police to issue a citation, up to $50.00, to discourage the unlawful behavior. The goal was to clean up critical areas of our city and re-set community norms.

Supporters of the new Aggressive Panhandling law believed the new law would give the police an additional tool of enforcement. They argued that the existing criminal law was not effective and a civil citation scheme could re-set community norms by signaling a change to the business areas that have been neglected.

I was unsupportive of the proposed law because the data and the actual experiences in other cities do not support those conclusions about the Aggressive Panhandling law; there is no data to support the conclusion that a ticket scheme “re-sets” community norms. To the contrary, it is clear what actually re-sets community norms and improves public safety: deliberate, assertive and consistent enforcement of existing criminal laws.

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Jun 17 2010

LED streetlights headed for Belltown and Central District neighborhoods

Published by under Seattle City Light

Press Release issued on Thursday, 6/17/2010:

Next stage of pilot project introduces LEDs to arterials to improve visibility and public safety

Seattle – Councilmember Bruce Harrell today announced the expansion of the current LED streetlight pilot project to include LEDs on arterials in a four block area of Belltown and a five block area of the Central District. Installation is scheduled for August.

In Belltown, LEDs will be installed on 2nd Avenue between Wall and Lenora streets and in the Central District, on Cherry Street between 23rd Avenue E and Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. Both areas have had their share of nighttime troubles.

“These are the first arterials in our city to be tested for LEDs,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Chair of the Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee. “Effective streetlighting is essential to fostering safe neighborhoods and a safe nightlife environment.”

Below are pictures of the LEDs installed on Capitol Hill. Led Streetlights (top) & Old High-pressure Sodium Streetlights (bottom)


Improvement of the streetlight system has been a priority for Councilmember Harrell because of its impact on customer service, public safety and neighborhoods. In 2004, more than 23,000 streetlight outages were reported and sometimes it took months for a light to be repaired. Now the backlog has been reduced to roughly 1,000 outages with nearly 90 percent being repaired within 14 days or less. Currently, City Light is in the third phase of a four phase effort to re-lamp all 84,000 streetlights in the city. The improved service and LED transformation is unprecedented in Seattle.

In June of 2009, it was announced that the city will use $1 million in stimulus money to begin initial funding of LEDs. Later this year City Light will begin using LED streetlights in its overall replacement program, installing 5,000 LEDs in 2010 and 40,000 over the next five years. LED pilot projects in Capitol Hill, West Seattle and South Park have already received an 85 percent approval from residents. City Light reviewed more than 100 models of LED fixtures and tested nine to find the lighting most favorable to residents.

LED streetlights last up to 12 years, while the high pressure sodium streetlights currently used, last only four years. This will result in less frequent outages and consistently lit streets. The light temperature produced by LEDs does not distort colors and appears brighter to the eye. Given this fact, the intensity of the LEDs can be reduced and less power can be used.

“In terms of customer service, LED streetlights give us a consistent, energy efficient solution that will save the city money,” said Councilmember Harrell. “These two areas will provide the needed testing for arterials and address public safety concerns at the same time.”

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