Governor signs Padden bills on police body cameras, public safety

Measures would clarify rules on body-cam use and restore judges’ ability to protect the public from drunk drivers and other potentially dangerous offenders awaiting trial

Today Sen. Mike Padden joined the governor, members of law enforcement and concerned citizens at a ceremony at the Capitol where two of his public-safety bills were signed.

Senate Bill 6408, Padden’s bipartisan measure aimed at clarifying the rules surrounding the use of police body cameras, is the result of a long process that Padden describes as an “exercise in balance.”

“Over a period of time we were able to reach a consensus on what was most important – making sure that there is truth and accountability for both law enforcement and those with whom they interact, while also protecting privacy and decency in the process,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

Legislation approved in 2016 established public-disclosure and other requirements relating to body-worn camera recordings and created the Joint Legislative Task Force on Body Worn Cameras, of which Padden served as a chair.

SB 6408, once in effect, will make permanent the existing requirements and Public Records Act provisions governing body-worn cameras and apply them to all law-enforcement and corrections agencies deploying body-worn cameras. The new law will also strengthen privacy protections for intimate images in such recordings, and clarify record-retention requirements for body-worn camera recordings.

Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill 5987

Padden’s second measure signed today is Senate Bill 5987, which he says will allow judges to once again make “common-sense” decisions that will save lives and protect the public.

In a 5-4 decision the Washington Supreme Court overturned judges’ authority to order standard pretrial conditions of release, because the statute that allowed for a pretrial order prohibiting alcohol consumption only applied to misdemeanors. Padden’s measure corrects that oversight.

“This new law will restore that authority to trial court judges,” said Padden, a former district court judge. “It supports the common-sense notion that a judge who is setting pretrial terms for a person arrested for a misdemeanor offense like a DUI should be able to order the person to stop drinking alcohol.

“This change received broad support from judges, prosecutors and the public, and it will go a long way toward protecting the public from drunk drivers, who we know are likely to re-offend if they are permitted to drink while awaiting trial.”

SB 5987 will:

  • allow the imposition of conditions of release for any felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor case;
  • require protecting the public from harm as a purpose for imposing conditions of release; and
  • clarify that a pretrial-release program is any program in superior, district, or municipal courts.

The measure is a product of a legislative work session that included judges and prosecutors. Both the Washington District and Municipal Court Judges’ Association and the Washington State Superior Court Judges’ Association testified in support of the bill.

Padden pointed out that allowing judges to set reasonable pretrial conditions will actually help defendants too.

“Judges don’t always want to impose high bail amounts or jail time pending trial,” said Padden. “If possible, many would prefer less harsh restrictions, so long as they are still able to do so while protecting the public.

“This new law will allow them to order the most reasonable pretrial conditions of release, while still making public safety a priority.”

The laws created by Padden’s bills, which passed the Legislature with near-unanimous support, will go into effect June 7.