The Seattle Police have hired the programmer who inundated the department with requests for footage from the city’s police body camera program last year, and then later, requested nearly every email Washington State government ever sent. If you can’t beat ‘em, hire ‘em.
Yep, The Stranger reports that Seattle Police will hire 24-year-old programmer Tim Clemans on a three-month trial basis at a rate of $22.60 per hour. “Tim possesses a talent that we don’t have internally,” Wagers told The Stranger.
What skills are these? After flooding the department with requests that they couldn’t fulfill, Clemans developed auto-redaction software that blurs things like faces and addresses in police body camera footage. It’s currently being used by Seattle Police to help populate a YouTube channel with video from the program. He has also developed software for the auto-redaction of paper documents. According to his research, 50 percent don’t even need to be redacted at all, but we don’t know that because everything is still done manually, the old-fashioned way.
The YouTube channel and the software that enables it are remarkable steps for transparency, which is touted as one of the central benefits of adopting body camera programs. Clemans is helping make sure that police body cameras actually serve the function of improving accountability for police officers, instead of just as a tool for getting police off the hook.
As for the Seattle Police, good on them for embracing technological solutions to the redaction issues posed by body cameras. Across the country in Washington DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser just proposed legislation that would exempt body cameras from freedom of information laws. That’s wrong-headed. Hopefully more municipalities will follow Seattle’s lead.