Council approves body cameras for Federal Way police

The goal is to implement body-worn cameras by Jan. 1, 2022.

Federal Way police officers will soon be wearing body cameras, thanks to a unanimous vote June 15 by the Federal Way City Council.

Body-worn cameras are gaining attention and use by police departments around the nation. The small camera, often worn on an officer’s chest, records video and audio footage and stores the data for later review.

Previously, the department has not used body-worn cameras or dashboard cameras, FWPD Cmdr. Kurt Schwan told the Mirror in 2020. Only four of the department’s fleet patrol cars are equipped with Automated License Plate Reading cameras.

The lack of cameras — which some view as a lack of accountability and others view as unnecessary expenses — is a decision largely left up to Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell and the Federal Way City Council, who serve as both the oversight board and decision makers of the Federal Way Police Department.

On June 15, the council was asked to consider implementing a Body Worn Camera (BWC) program for an initial cost of $942,800. The proposal outlined expenses for training, equipment and licenses as $581,800 and an additional $361,000 for personnel costs.

The five-year total cost for technology and equipment is expected to be $2,190,477. The city and the department are aiming for implementation of body-worn cameras to “go live” by Jan. 1, 2022, Deputy Chief Stephan Neal told the council on June 15.

Funding for the first five years of the BWC program is possible because of the $19 million allocated to the city through the American Rescue Plan recovery revenue shortfall resulting from 2020, or a grant program. At the six-year mark, the city will need to find a funding source.

Equipment will be provided by Axon, a public safety technology company, which provides Tasers for Federal Way officers. Axon also provides body cameras for Kent, Tacoma and Tukwila police departments.

The 143 body cameras will be worn by all sworn personnel of the Federal Way Police Department (137 members), four jail transport officers, and two animal services officers.

The city expects implementation of the BWC program to cost $581,761 in the first year with an ongoing cost of $414,804 in the next four years.

For the personnel costs, the city will hire an attorney with a salary of $143,000, an additional information technology employee for $97,000, and one additional public records coordinator with a $85,000 salary.

With the council’s approval, hiring needs to proceed within the next 60 days, Neal said.