OKC Police to Pilot Body Cameras25-Jan-2016
In the wake of repeated news about cops behaving badly, many police departments have begun to implement the use of body cameras for police officers, and now Oklahoma City will be among the ever growing list of cities whose police forces will wear body cameras.
The news of the pilot program comes on the heels of the sentencing of Oklahoma City Police Officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, 30, who was convicted of 18 criminal counts involving the sexual assault of 8 women while he was on duty in the department's Springlake Division. The use of body cameras is a positive move in the aftermath of serious questions nationwide about police interactions.
Oklahoma City police Capt. Paco Balderrama unveiled the pilot program on Friday, the day after Holtzclaw was sentenced. But Balderrama says the department has been looking into the use of body cameras for more than two years--even before the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Brown--an incident which prompted protests and riots over allegations of police misconduct, racism, and use of deadly force.
For the Oklahoma City pilot program, 100 body cameras will be shared by 150 police officers. After the completion of the pilot program, the department hopes to continue to increase the number of body cameras available and the number of officers who will wear them. The program is expected to cost the city $400,000 in its first year for not only the cameras, but for six employees to implement the program: two to oversee technical maintenance, two to handle digital evidence collected by the cameras, and an attorney and legal assistant to advise the department regarding what data should be collected from the cameras and how that data or evidence should be released. The attorney and legal assistant will be employed by the City of Oklahoma City; the four others will be employed by the Oklahoma City Police Department.
The cameras will become active when the officers wearing them press a button prior to initiating contact or an interaction; however, the cameras will also store data up to 30 seconds before the button is pushed. In other words, they are always recording, but not all recorded data will be collected and stored. Although the use of body cameras is applauded as an effort in transparency, some say the 30-second buffer does not go far enough, as it only records video, not audio of an encounter. The full video and audio only becomes active once the button is pressed.
Still the use of body cameras in Oklahoma City is a step in the right direction, and if implemented properly, it should serve as protection for police and the general public in providing transparency in police interactions.
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