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Citizen's site makes Wash. cops' videos public

Eric Rachner won a $60k public-disclosure judgment against the Seattle Police Department for denying it had dash cam footage

By PoliceOne Staff

SEATTLE — A citizen who filed a lawsuit against Seattle police has created a public, searchable database of the department’s dash cam videos.

Eric Rachner, 35, was arrested three years ago while playing a game near the state capitol building, according to the Seattle Times. Rachner and another man were reportedly swatting giant sponge golf balls as part of a pub crawl. Police said Rachner refused to identify himself, which amounted to obstruction of justice. Charges were dismissed after he filed a complaint with the department's citizen-run internal investigation unit due to “proof problems,” court documents said.

Despite their dismissal, Rachner still won a $60,000 public-disclosure judgment against the department for denying it had dash cam footage of his arrest as well as logs of the recordings. Two weeks ago he filed a lawsuit against the officers involved in the incident, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution and "spoliation of video evidence."

Rachner obtained one video of the incident and when he found out six others existed, he and his attorney analyzed dash-cam video logs shot by Seattle patrol officers and created www.seattlepolicevideo.com. The website allows any citizen who interacts with police to search by officer name or badge number to determine whether video of the incident exists.

The department's policies governing the use of dash cam have "subverted the purpose of the in-car video system and turned it from a system to disclose and remedy conduct, into a system that operated to conceal and promote misconduct,” a 58-page complaint filed in King County Superior Court alleged.

The lawsuit further alleges the department "has had a policy and custom to falsely conceal video when it is requested" and from hiding the existence of activity logs.

Rachner and his attorney were able to obtain the Seattle patrol officers’ video logs — detailing every video recorded from July 2008 through August 2011 — as part of the public-disclosure judgment.

Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb applauded Rachner for putting the information online, according to KATU.

"Transparency is a very important virtue for our department. And we try to achieve that by sharing information and public education," Whitcomb said.

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