City Council to consider proposal on public's rights to record police activity

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council is set to consider a proposal involving the public’s right to record police activity.

The advent of technology has brought the issue into the national spotlight recently.

Most people have smartphones with the capability to capture pictures, video or send out live broadcasts of different events, including what police officers are doing, all in real time.

On Wednesday, city council member Lisa Herbold is set to propose that the Seattle Police Department’s current policy that gives the public the right to "watch and record" their activity be made part of the Seattle Municipal Code.

This will come into play in legal challenges against law enforcement.

A recent case involves University of Washington student David Pontecorvo, who settled for $100,000 after a cellphone video captured a confrontation between him and Seattle officers following a noise complaint at his home.

His attorney says authorities used excessive force on his client.

"His nose was broken, cheekbones were broken -- as a resident of Seattle and a taxpayer, it's disappointing that these guys are on the force,” said Pontecorvo’s attorney, Daniel Fjelstad.

Other national cases that Herbold cites in her memo to the council as proof for the need for the new ordinance are the fatal officer-involved shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge.

Both incidents captured police officers’ actions on video.

The proposal will also allow the public to claim damages against the police department if their recording devices are taken away or destroyed.