Denver Police officers added a new gadget to their uniform Thursday evening -- body cameras. The first wave of officers to use the cameras include District 6, Traffic Operations, and the Gang Unit.
Over the next few months, eight hundred officers will be equipped with the devices that are designed to record daily police activity. In 2016, the City of Denver budgeted about $1.8 million for the program.
The initial cost to implement a body camera program typically pales in comparison to the ongoing cost of maintaining all the data. The anticipated cost to outfit 800 officers with cameras is $888,835 and the estimated per-year cost to store the data is $758,400.
"I think it’s a real win-win situation for the city. So instituting 800 of the body cameras and probably more over time, [means] we’ll be able to have a good documented evidence of what’s going on in criminal situations." said Wayne New, City Council member representing District 10.
The Denver Police Department published a body worn camera policy outlining specific guidelines for the technology. It states the cameras will be used to:
- Capture crimes in-progress.
- Document initial police response.
- Mitigate potentially confrontational interactions.
- Prevent and resolve complaints made against officers during the course of their police duties.
- Serve in training and performance feedback, ensuring the professionalism of all Denver Police officers.
Police guidelines also state the cameras will not be activated in places where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists unless the activation is for the purpose of official law enforcement activity such as a call for service or if the activation is required policy.
Also, officers can be punished for intentionally turning off the cameras when they should be turned on.
"If someone comes in and there's no use of force reported and no video, but it's clear that happened, that is going to be a very serious offense for that officer," said DPD chief deputy Matt Murray.
Multiple offenses of body cameras being misused can result in a warning, or discilinary action. However, if the department becomes aware of an officer intentionally tampering with the video, it could result in a formal investigation and additional discipline.
The Denver Police Protective Association released the following statement in response to the body camera program:
The PPA supports the use of body cameras. We believe they will enhance officer safety, build confidence within the community and truly make police work more transparent as well as make our officers more effective by capturing video of witness as well as suspect statements. However the policy as written needs work to protect the rights of officers as well as victims and witnesses.