Dana Ralph, Kent City councilwoman and mayoral candidate, announced in a press release Wednesday that she will roll out a proposal for Kent Police officers to wear body cameras starting next year.
If elected over Councilman Jim Berrios in the Nov. 7 general election, Ralph would implement the program by the end of her first year as mayor.
“I have heard many in the community ask for additional police department transparency and accountability,” Ralph said in the press release. “We are incredibly lucky to have one of the best police departments in the nation – we want to keep it that way for decades to come.
“I believe implementing body cameras on our patrol officers will continue to improve community policing, community trust and equally it is fantastic protection for our police officers. This eliminates a he said, she said argument because everything is documented on video. We no longer have to make assumptions in investigations because we will have facts available immediately. I want to ensure Kent is a safe place for every resident, visitor and business and this is a step in the right direction.”
Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas told the council’s Public Safety Committee last month that officers wearing body cameras remained in the discussion stage. A police committee visited the Seattle Police Department to see how the cameras work. Berrios, Ralph and Les Thomas serve on the Public Safety Committee.
“I’ve met with union leadership at the Kent Police Officers Association and community leaders and am committed to working with both groups as we roll out this proposal,” Ralph said. “While it isn’t innovative nationally, it certainly is innovative for Kent. There are vendors who will let us pilot the project with their equipment free of charge to the city and residents of Kent. As mayor I will roll out this program immediately through a pilot project and then department wide. I have also had discussions with other cities who utilize body cameras to discuss data storage, records requests and logistical details of how their program works.”
Thomas told the Public Safety Committee on Aug. 8 that costs remain a challenge. He said it could cost about $250,000 to start up and about $110,000 a year in ongoing costs. The chief added that cost doesn’t include personnel that will need to be hired to redact information that cannot be disclosed to the public, which will cost another $370,000 per year.
Tukwila Police ran a pilot program last year with several officers wearing body cameras. The Tukwila City Council in July approved a $550,000, five-year contract with Axon (with offices in Arizona and Seattle), to provide 50 body cameras, 29 dash cameras and 50 Taser guns to its police force.
“Again, I think this is one more step in the right direction for public transparency, accountability, officer safety and to continue to grow the solid relationship we have between our exceptional department and members of the community,” Ralph said.
Mayoral candidate debate Thursday
Ralph and Berrios will face off in a mayoral candidate debate on Thursday night, Sept. 21, at the Kent Senior Center, 600 E. Smith St.
Sponsored and presented by the ilovekent.net website, the event begins at 6 p.m. with an informal meet-and-greet with the candidates followed by a 90-minute debate starting at 7 p.m. Greg Haffner will moderate the debate.