skip navigation
Share this:

Disclosure of Law Enforcement Video Footage

This page discusses the disclosure of video footage in the possession of police and sheriff departments in Washington State, including dashcam and body camera footage.

It is part of MRSC's Law Enforcement Records Tool Kit, created in partnership with the State Auditor's Center for Government Innovation.

Always consult with your legal counsel if you are unsure whether a record or certain information within the record is exempt or prohibited from disclosure.

Law Enforcement Videos Generally

Law enforcement videos can include dashcam and body camera footage, video recordings of witness interviews, and private security camera footage obtained by law enforcement. Disclosure of such footage can raise privacy concerns and other issues (such as adequate redaction techniques). The PRA provides a specific exemption for certain body camera footage and chapter 9.73 RCW provides, a narrow exemption for dashcam videos.

Other law enforcement videos may be covered by other exemptions or prohibitions; for instance:

Dashcam (In-Car) Footage

RCW 9.73.090(1)(c) prohibits public disclosure of in-car videos if there is actual, pending litigation arising from the recorded events. In these cases, the videos may only be disclosed to the public after final disposition. See Fisher Broadcasting v. City of Seattle (2014). However, this prohibition does not apply if the requestor is one of the parties involved in the litigation.

Body Camera Footage

Body camera footage is exempt under RCW 42.56.240(14) to the extent nondisclosure is essential for the protection of any person’s right to privacy as described in RCW 42.56.050. The statute enumerates numerous examples of when public release of a body camera recording is presumed to be highly offensive to a reasonable person, including (but not limited to) recordings that depict:

  • The interior of a place of residence where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy;
  • An intimate image;
  • A minor; or
  • The body of a deceased person.

Note that these examples are presumed to meet only one of the elements of the right to privacy test (that it is “highly offensive to the reasonable person”) and that this presumption may be rebutted by specific evidence. To withhold or redact the recording, the agency must also conclude that the second element of the right to privacy test is met, that the footage "is not of legitimate interest to the public." Agencies are not to disclose those portions of body camera footage that would violate a person’s right to privacy.

Requestors have additional obligations when requesting a body camera recording. A request must:

  • Specifically identify a name of a person or persons involved in the incident;
  • Provide the incident or case number;
  • Provide the date, time and location of the incident(s); or
  • Identify a law enforcement or corrections officer involved in the incident(s).

The statute grants some requestors special access to body camera footage, including individuals directly involved in a recorded incident (and their attorneys). See RCW 42.56.240(14)(e)(i). These specified individuals cannot be required to pay the costs of redacting any portion of a body camera recordings, although all other requestors can be charged redaction costs. See RCW 42.56.240(14)(e)(ii) and (f)(i).

Last Modified: May 05, 2023