Charleena Lyles' family reacts to police body camera rollout

After years of conversation and controversy, police body cameras hit the streets of Seattle on Saturday.  Bike patrol officers in the West Precinct will be the first to wear them.

Mayor Ed Murray issued that executive order earlier this week.  

In a video message explaining the order, Murray referenced the recent police shooting death of Charleena Lyles.  He called police body cameras an "accountability tool" that might have helped provide answers about exactly what happened the morning two SPD officers shot and killed her.

So on the eve of this major change, family members of Charleena Lyles are reacting to the mayor's new mandate.

"The reality for us is, Charleena is gone.  She's not coming back.  But maybe with this executive order, it may save someone else's life," said Katrina Johnson, Lyles' cousin.

First and foremost, the family hopes that body cameras provide more police accountability.

Lyles' sister, Monika Williams, says she can't help but think body cameras might have made a difference for her sister had officers been wearing them back in June when the shooting took place.

"I believe that my sister would probably still be here.  I believe the decisions they made would not have been made.  I just don't see any reason a gun was needed to take down my sister when she was only a hundred pounds and pregnant," said Williams.

The family believes the cameras could provide a more clear picture of exactly what happened when officers showed up at Lyles' home, as well as other cases involving the use of deadly force.

But they still have concerns about exactly how the city's body camera policy will work.  Specifically, they're concerned about when and where officers would be able to turn the cameras off.

"The accountability has to be there," said Johnson.  "The cameras just have to be on all the time."

According to the policy as it's now written, police officers would be required to turn the body cameras off when speaking to a victim of a crime.  That's important to note, because on the morning of her death Charleena Lyles called police to her home to report a burglary.

That means in her case, there's a good chance the police body cameras wouldn't have been recording.  Her family says that's problematic.

Mayor Murray's order mandates body cameras on West Precinct bike patrol officers starting Saturday.  By September 30, all West Precinct officers will be required to wear them.  After that, the police department's remaining officers will get cameras on a monthly basis, precinct-by-precinct.

Lyles' loved ones want to know why the West Precinct will be the first to use body cameras, rather than officers in the North Precinct where Lyles was killed.

"If you want to use her name and say her name, say her name loud enough to get North Precinct to get the body cameras," said Johnson.  "Next, after bike cops in the West Precinct.  How about that?"

No word yet on how soon that could happen in the North Precinct.

 

© 2017 KING-TV


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