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Seattle Police Body Cams, Ala Stross, Ala Dick

The Seattle Police department has been experimenting with using body cameras for police officers. The idea is that eventually all police officers will be issued such cameras.

The Seattle PD has been uploading selected redacted videos to Youtube for viewing by the public; they upload the original videos to their own private servers.


(Seattle PD body cam via SPD Youtube channel)

The Seattle Police Department has been working toward this moment for more than a year. Footage from the cameras can be used as evidence against suspects, and help monitor the behavior of officers. Research has found that departments using such cameras have experienced a decline in assaults on officers, as well as the need for officers to use force.

SPD has worked with a number of different groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Community Police Commission, to develop policies around the use of body worn cameras. In addition, the department sought advice from an International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) body-worn video expert, who worked has worked with departments across the country on this issue.

You noticed that the picture became oddly distorted around 25 seconds in, as soon as faces became visible. A Gaussian blur was rendered, making it impossible to identify individuals.

All this makes me think of several of my favorite sf authors and their work. In his 2007 novel Halting State, Charles Stross writes about lifelogs, which are body camera videos uploaded to the police cloud servers.

You shake your head and climb out of the car, tapping your ear-piece to tell your phone to listen up: "Arriving on SOC, time-stamp now. Start evidence log." It's logging anyway - everything you see on duty goes into the black box - but the voice marker is searchable. It saves the event from getting lost in your lifelog.

In his 1977 novel A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick writes about scramble suits which are used to blur the identity of individuals, in real life and in police surveillance videos.

"Now you will notice," the Lions Club host said, "that you can barely see this individual... because he is wearing what is called a scramble suit...

"Let's hear it for the vague blur!" the host said loudly...

Via Seattle PD.

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