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Originally published April 2, 2014 at 8:53 PM | Page modified April 3, 2014 at 1:19 PM

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Glitch drops portions of SPD in-car videos, may affect cases

The problem reportedly stems from a switch the Seattle Police Department made about a year ago to a new high-definition resolution system, possibly containing a glitch that caused some frames to drop from the videos, according to a source.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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The King County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday that it has been informed of possibly compromised Seattle police patrol-car videos that could affect prosecutions.

“We’re just learning of this and we will be meeting with city officials to find out more,” Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office, said in an email.

Donohoe, whose office primarily handles felony cases, said there was “no estimate at this point” of how many videos might be at issue.

The problem reportedly stems from a switch the Police Department made about a year ago to a new high-definition resolution system, possibly containing a glitch that caused some frames to drop from the videos, according to a source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office said it was “recently notified of technical issues associated with the Seattle Police Department’s COBAN in-car video system that may have affected small portions of a limited number of video records.”

The City Attorney’s Office handles misdemeanor cases generated by Seattle police. COBAN is the manufacturer of the in-car system.

“Based on the information we know at this time, the issues relate to a system upgrade that was installed on April 23, 2013,” the statement said. “Some videos recorded since that date have dropped frames (missing images), and may also have audio and video synchronization issues.

“While this is likely not an issue for the vast majority of videos produced during discovery, we have an independent forensic video expert working to identify all videos that were impacted,” the statement said, referring to the discovery process in which evidence is provided to defense attorneys.

Seattle police declined to comment.

The recordings are routinely collected from the video and audio system installed in patrol cars, which are activated when officers make contacts in the course of their regular duties.

Videos can be used as evidence in criminal cases. If frames are missing, defense attorneys could use that to challenge evidence or seek dismissal of charges.

“We’ve just been made aware of this,” Donohoe said in an email. “It’s too early to say whether or not it could affect any cases.”

In addition to criminal matters, the videos are used by the Police Department to evaluate officers’ use of force and conduct internal investigations into allegations of officer misconduct.

The time range at issue covers April 2013 to March of this year, according to the source who described the nature of the potential glitch.

The Police Department is now under a federal consent decree to curtail excessive force and biased policing.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com On Twitter @stevemiletich



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