Requesting Records

A Note on Public Records Requests and Covid-19 Response

NOTE: On March 24, 2020 Governor Inslee issued proclamation 20-28 making temporary changes to the Public Records Act to allow agencies to take certain actions needed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • In compliance with this proclamation, SPD is unable to accommodate acceptance of public disclosure requests in person or to provide records for in person pick up or inspection for the duration of the effectiveness of the Governor’s Order.
  • Due to ongoing response efforts and limited staffing and physical access related to the ongoing emergency, SPD may not be able to provide an initial response to requests within five business days.
  • This possibility is anticipated and provided for in the Governor’s proclamation. We encourage all requestors to make requests through the City’s Public Records Portal (GovQA). Requestors attempting to submit requests through other means can anticipate that it will take a significant amount of additional time to receive a response. SPD apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.

As the SPD Legal staff has been directed to work remotely in response to Covid-19, we are unable to respond to phone calls or voicemails left with our office at this time. However, we are responding to questions and concerns directed through the GovQA portal, and encourage you to utilize the GovQA portal to communicate with SPD Legal staff regarding public disclosure requests and associated questions. Thank you for your understanding during this unprecedented time.

Public Information Requests

You can make a request for an initial police report, a collision report or a clearance letter without going through a public disclosure request.  These reports do not include more than a basic narrative and a few supplemental reports.
  • Who can request these reports? - Involved parties. (Victims, complainants and their legal representatives.)
  • How quickly can I receive this report?  - Approximately 5-7 business days after an event.

Public Disclosure Requests

Most Public Records Act (PRA) requests are handled through a public disclosure request.
  • Who can request these reports? - Any involved party or third party requestor can make a public disclosure request.
  • How quickly can I receive a public disclosure request?  -  The City must make a preliminary response within 5 business days.  The response may be to provide the records, but may also be to indicate a time frame within which the City may reasonably fulfill the request or provide an installment schedule. (Note: Over the past few years, SPD has experienced an unprecedented increase in the volume and complexity of PRA requests it receives. SPD responds to each request within the timeframe that reasonably and fairly allocates resources to that request.)
  • What can I request through public disclosure? - A public record is any record relating to the conduct of Seattle Police Department business which is prepared, owned, used, or retained by the Seattle Police Department. You can request the following, including but not limited to:
    • Incident reports
    • Videos/Audio
    • Calls for service
    • Photographs
    • Witness Statements

Who do I contact to make a public disclosure request?

Records Request Center

Legal Records Requests

All legal records requests are handled by the SPD Legal Unit. The type of requests include: Criminal Subpoenas Duces Tecum (SDT), Civil Subpoenas Duces Tecum (SDT), Infraction Discovery Requests (IDR), and Preservation Requests (PR).
  • Who can submit these requests?
    • Criminal SDT: defense attorneys, their paralegals or investigators, defendants acting pro se.
    • Civil SDT: petitioner’s or respondent’s attorneys, petitioner or respondent if acting pro se.
    • IDR: defendant’s attorney or defendant if acting pro se.
    • PR: defendant’s attorney or defendant if acting pro se.
  • How quickly can I receive my records? Due to our current workload and staffing, the Legal Unit requires a minimum of 6-8 weeks to research and respond to all legal requests.
  • Do I have to use the Records Request Center? The Legal Unit will still accept SDTs, IDRs, and PRs that are mailed, faxed, emailed, and hand-delivered to our office. However, we will input all requests into the Records Request Center and respond within the Records Request Center. To eliminate delays in receiving/processing your requests, we highly encourage submitting your request directly through the Records Request Center.

If you are submitting a Criminal SDT, Civil SDT, IDR or PR you can use the Records Request Center to make a legal records request.

Records Request Center

About the Records Request Center

The Seattle Police Records Request Center allows you to:
  • submit requests
  • track your request
  • make payments online
  • send messages
  • download your records
  • manage your profile

The benefits to the online system is that it generally costs less to receive your records, there is no need to make a trip to Police Headquarters, you will receive frequent communications and updates on status of your request, and it is easier to contact the Police Department about your request.

The Records Request Center is powered by GovQA.  

Other Ways to Get Records

In Person:

You may make a walk-in request at Seattle Police Headquarters Front Counter Services, during business hours.  You can file a public information request or public disclosure request in person. 

Information Already Available:

Many police datasets and reports are already available online for the public.