Bathroom cams inside Puyallup city jail not privacy invasion, jury decides

VIDEO: Dozen people file lawsuit against city of Puyallup
Jail video recordings of 12 DUI suspects in compromising positions were not a violation of privacy rights, a federal jury decided Thursday. 

Closing arguments ended Wednesday in a case where Puyallup police are accused of video recording DUI suspects in a jail bathroom with the jail's surveillance cameras.

The lawsuit was filed in August 2013 by Seattle attorney James Egan, who is representing multiple DUI suspects. He said it appears attractive women were being video recorded more than others.

After the suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Egan distributed redacted images from the surveillance cameras. Capt. Scott Engle of the Puyallup Police Department called the suit completely baseless.

Cameras in jails are standard operating procedure, and are there strictly for the security of the people in the jail, including the inmates, he said.
One of the women became suspicious when a jail guard noted that she didn't take off her underwear.
Another woman, who goes by Plaintiff No. 5, said she thought officers joked about how she used the toilet but couldn't be sure.
"I heard something like squat, or squatter," she said.

Egan became curious about a pattern with Puyallup DUI suspects and requested the video through public disclosure. Multiple women did not initially realize they had been video recorded.

"I didn't find out until almost two years later when my lawyer called me and told me there was video of me urinating," another woman, Plaintiff No. 3, said.

Engle said men and women are only directed to undress in the cells where there are cameras when the jail is busy and someone is already using the more private area behind the curtain.

Puyallup City Attorney Kevin Yamamoto said last year that the lawsuit only came about because lawyer James Egan was "trolling" for sympathetic people to use as plaintiffs for his own financial gain. He regarded Egan's Public Disclosure Requests for the more than 60 videos as basically frivolous. Eleven women and 1 man are included in the lawsuit.

"The practices that are used in the Puyallup Jail are standard correctional procedures used in jails across the United States," Engle said.

KIRO 7 checked cities and counties in the Seattle area and found that King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties do not have cameras where the toilets are.

King County Jail Commander William Hayes said cameras are only in common areas like hallways and larger living areas. He said when people need to change into jail uniforms, they can go into dressing rooms with curtains for doors that do not have cameras inside.

Officers from Kirkland, Kent and Federal Way said it was a no camera policy for their bathrooms.

In Kirkland, officials added that suspects are searched and patted down with the backs of officers' hands. Women are not held overnight, but men would change into a jail uniform in a bathroom or holding cell, both of which do not have cameras. Women remain in their clothes until they are transported to King County Jail.

Officers explained in Federal Way suspects are searched but generally do not remove any items except their shoes before being transported to a jail.

Officers in Kent added at their jail, suspects can also use a changing room and it does not have cameras.

In Renton, which had its own jail before switching to South Correctional Entity in Des Moines, Washington, officers said they had a couple changing rooms with no cameras. An officer would be in the changing room to supervise, and if a woman was changing into a jail uniform, then a female officer would be in the room with her instead of a male.

In Redmond, the public information officer said they would rarely have someone change unless he or she was wearing evidence or had gotten messy, but they do have a changing area that has no cameras in it.

The plaintiffs said it's time for the cameras at Puyallup's jail to stop rolling.

"I don't want anyone else to feel this violation that I have felt," Plaintiff No. 3 said.

Yamamoto said that Egan initially asked for $800,000 before going public with the images.
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