DENVER (AP) — Some police watchdogs are questioning a plan to outfit about 800 Denver officers with body cameras.
The Denver Post (http://dpo.st/1AmZuvr) reported Sunday that community activists are concerned about how the footage will be used, when it will be released to the public and what officials will do to ensure privacy for those who are filmed.
Police Chief Robert White announced last month that some officers already are wearing body cameras as part of a national study of their effectiveness. He is seeking $1.5 million to outfit all 800 patrol officers with the devices, which are worn on lapels or eyeglasses. White and other police officials said the cameras improve transparency.
But Denise Maes, public policy director for the ACLU-Colorado, said strong policies need to exist to prevent abuse. At a public meeting last week to discuss the technology, some residents said they don’t trust Denver officers not to tamper with the footage or find other ways to avoid recording their interactions.
“The accountability process will be controlled by those committing the abuses,’’ said resident and homeless advocate, Benjamin Donlon.
Police officials said their policy requires use of the cameras during most official interactions, such as traffic stops and 911 calls. Officers will turn their cameras on and leave them running until an incident is over. A buffer catches the 30 seconds before the officer started recording to show how a situation escalated.
But the policy prohibits camera use in more sensitive areas, such bathrooms and hospitals. Citizens may request an officer turn off a camera, but the officer must announce the request before doing so. Officers who purposefully turn a camera off or forget to use them can be punished, Cmdr. Magen Dodge said.
Footage will be stored on a website maintained by Taser International Inc., which is providing the devices for the study. Internal affairs investigators and case detectives will be the only ones with access to it.
Tania Soto Valenzuela of the Colorado Progressive Coalition questioned who decides which videos to release to the public. Police officials said they’ll make those decisions on a case-by-case basis, with consideration for privacy and pending investigations.
Other departments around the country are fashioning body camera programs as well. Calls for more officers to wear the technology mounted after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. But White said his department had considered it for some time.