Feb 22, 2023 - News

Seattle police union accuses department of "spying" on officers

Illustration of red and blue spotlights moving over a police badge.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Seattle's police union objected to the department's use of artificial intelligence to analyze police body camera footage, calling it a form of "spying" on officers.

Why it matters: The department recently stopped using the technology, developed by a company called Truleo, as civil liberties groups raised concerns about the public's privacy.

  • But the union's objections may have been a bigger factor in the department's decision to pause the contract.

Truleo's system uses artificial intelligence to scan body camera recordings and alert supervisors if officers are behaving unprofessionally, such as by using curse words, insults or threats.

What they're saying: Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan told Axios last week that the SPD began using Truleo's technology in 2021 without informing officers.

  • Solan said that's a change in working conditions that should have been negotiated with the union.
  • "The department was spying on their employees without letting them know," Solan said.

Plus: Solan said officers share concerns raised by the ACLU of Washington about the technology potentially violating the rights of community members who interact with police.

The other side: Truleo CEO Anthony Tassone said his company's technology separates civilian audio from officer audio, zeroing in on the language used by officers while not focusing on members of the public.

  • In an email to Axios, Tassone wrote that "body camera analytics done in a responsible way that protects civilian privacy is the future of police supervision and coaching."

The Seattle Police Department declined to comment this week on the union's accusations.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Seattle.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Seattle stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Seattle.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more