Police body cameras could offer accountability boost

KOIN News, March 26, 2014

Portland police officers could soon be testing new body cameras that are capable of recording both sound and video.

Fifty officers with the Mesa Police Department in Arizona have been using the same body cameras for the last year.

“We’re the largest agency I believe currently to utilize the cameras,” said Mesa Police Det. Steve Berry. “Cases are easier to prosecute. They’re holding up great.”

Mesa Arizona police said the body camera make both police and citizens more accountable.

“Everyone tends to behave a little better I think when everyone knows there’s an actual recoding of what’s going on,” said Berry.

Officers in Portland will soon use the same devices after a federal judge recommended Portland police officers also use the body cameras as part of sweeping police reforms.

“I think we may be testing some soon to see how they work,” said Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson.

The Portland Police Bureau said the pilot program is just in the beginning stages.

Workers at Extreme Products in Clackamas said they have already sold dozens of these police body camera to individual officers for multiple agencies. However, Portland police apparently are not supposed to be acquiring these devices on their own.

With the use of these new recording devices, some people are concerned about their privacy. According to Oregon state law, an officer is required to notify an individual before recording audio.

Members of Oregon’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said they like the idea of holding police responsible for their interactions with the public, but they do have some concerns.

“If they can be turning on and off the camera at will, we have effectively obliterated the ability for these cameras to be police accountability checks,” said Becky Straus, legislative director of ACLU of Oregon.

Simpson said Portland police do not know where they will buy the body camera yet or exactly which type they will use.

“There’s types that go on your shirt, but if you turn your head, they won’t record. There’s some that go on glasses,” said Simpson.