As Cienna Madrid reported in this week's Stranger, the Seattle Police Department wants to roll back a 1979 ordinance that—for good reason—set strict limits on police surveillance of citizens exercising their constitutional right to protest.
And one prong of the SPD's argument for giving itself more leeway to videotape peaceful protesters involves last December's Occupy protests:
As Assistant Chief Mike Sanford explained during an April 18 meeting of the city council's Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee, the filming would be used "to catch criminal activity when it occurs, not after it occurs." Sanford referenced last fall's Occupy Seattle protest at the Port of Seattle, which included masked protesters lobbing bricks and other projectiles at police. "We want the ability to see the people lobbing bricks before they put their masks on, before they hide their identities," he said.
The thing is, there's no shortage of police video from last fall's Occupy protests. In February, in response to a public records request I filed, the SPD released to The Stranger about an hour of police video from those protests—all of which was very useful to the police, by the way, in rebutting claims that they'd brutalized protesters (while also proving police claims that protesters had thrown wood and other projectiles at them). Here's one of two YouTube videos we made from the SPD's recordings of the December Occupy the Port protests:
Given this, and given that Assistant Chief Sanford told Cienna that police already have the power to start filming "once people commit pedestrian interference" (i.e., stepping off the sidewalk into the street, jaywalking, or blocking traffic), it's hard to understand why the SPD needs more power to start filming even earlier.
Most interesting theory I've hear so far to explain this new SPD push: They're excited about their new flying drones and—despite what they're saying—think they might want to use them at a protest someday.