Hazelwood forum vets Police ‘Body-Cam’ use

Before ‘body-worn cameras’ are clipped to Portland Police Bureau uniforms, citizens chime in on how they should be used …

At this outer East Portland “Body-worn Camera Forum” held at the East Portland Community Center, attendees were asked for opinions on policies for how the devices will be used.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The “Body-worn Camera Forum”, hosted by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) in the East Portland Community Center, was lightly attended on the morning of February 16.

“This morning, we’re having a community forum to talk about body-worn camera policy for the Bureau,” said PPB Assistant Chief, Services Branch, Chris Davis, who revealed that his branch of the Bureau will supervise the program.

Talking about the body-worn camera program is Portland Police Bureau Assistant Chief, Services Branch Chris Davis.

“There are two big pieces to a body-worn camera program,” Davis began. “One is all the technical aspects of it; we’re not here to talk about that – charging it, how to start all the footage and all that kind of stuff.

“The purpose of this forum is to listen to Portlanders about the many policy issues around using these devices,” Davis told East Portland News.

“We want to make sure that whatever we do with something as complicated and expensive as body-worn cameras, we can get meaningful input from the community that will eventually be affected by these decisions,” Davis added. “I don’t see [listening to community members’ concerns] as ‘optional’; instead I see this is a required step in our process toward developing a process for something like this.”

Holding such meetings helps the Bureau balance transparency and privacy, Assistant Chief Davis remarks.

The Police Bureau is holding forums, such as this one – the only one in East Portland, Davis commented – “to achieve a balance between transparency, which is important to the community and its Police Bureau – and, people’s legitimate concerns about privacy. We want to make sure we get people’s input before we just decide policy on behalf of all the residents of Portland.”

Officers looking forward to having body-worn cameras
While some individuals and groups have expressed concerns about officers using body-worn cameras, the officers think it’s a good idea.

“It’s a small sample, but we ran a really small pilot program for a while, a few years ago at Central Precinct and Traffic Division,” Davis said. “The feedback that I heard from those officers, at the time, was that when it came time for the pilot project to end, they did not want to give the cameras back, because they did not want to work without them.

“Officers said they felt that having the camera removes a lot of ambiguity about what happened in a given situation,” Davis observed.

Providing background about the PPB’s Body Worn Camera Project is Program Manager Tammy Mayer.

As the forum got underway, the Bureau’s Body Worn Camera Project Program Manager, Tammy Mayer, explained how the program began.

> CLICK HERE to open an Adobe PDF document of the presentation.

“President Obama provided $23 million in grants for police agencies to purchase and utilize this technology; and, among the larger jurisdictions that really jumped on board were Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles, which all began to develop their pilot programs almost immediately,” Mayer said.

The PPB began looking body-worn cameras starting in 2014, Mayer added. “There are a lot of advantages for us waiting this long; by not being first, we’ve been able to watch what other agencies have done, and learn from their mistakes; learn from how they change their policies along the way – which can be important when running into situations not covered by policies and practices recommended by those agencies, the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union], and ‘Chiefs of Police International’ organization.”

And, the Portland Police Bureau has been communicating with Oregon State Police, and the Hillsboro and Washington County Sheriff’s offices, which are in the implementation phase of their programs, Mayer reported.

While talking about policy aspects of using body-worn cameras, PPB’s program manager Tammy Mayer pauses for a question.

Some of the goals for the body worn camera program are:

  • Strengthen community trust in a relationship with the community;
  • Promote officer safety and safeguard the rights and privacy of the community members;
  • Bring transparency and accountability to police activity;
  • Enhance complaint resolution when there is a complaint from a community member; and,
  • Improve the4 training of Bureau members.


“What about notification that a camera is on, and recording?” a participant asked.

“Oregon law requires us to notify the community member that they are being recorded, as long as it is safe for the community member and the officer to do so at the time, upon first contact,” Mayer responded.

After the presentation, attendees join focus group tables to discuss important policies regarding body-worn cameras.

Those attending broke into groups to discuss six policy areas:

Mandatory Activation – When should the camera be on? For what encounters? What other situations should be considered for inclusion in Portland Police policy for mandatory recording?

Prohibited Activation – What should not be recorded? When should the camera be off? What other instances or places should be considered for inclusion in this policy for prohibited recording?

Discretionary or Temporary Deactivation – When should the camera be turned off temporarily? Should the officer have discretion for turning the camera off and on? What other situations should be considered for inclusion in Portland Police policy, for discretionary or temporary deactivation of the camera?

Deactivation – When should or shall the camera be turned off?

Officer Review – Should officers be allowed to review videos? Under what circumstances?

Supervisor Review – Should supervisors be able to review the videos? Under what circumstances?

Lents neighbors Char Pennie and David Potts participate in a group discussion about the Police Bureau’s use of body-worn cameras.

“Body-worn cameras is a great idea, because they will protect officers as well as citizens,” said Lents neighbor Char Pennie at the form.

Participant David Potts agreed, “I think it works both ways; for the community, and for the police as well.”

Implementation possible in 2020
This summer, the Bureau expects to run two three-month pilot programs to test the cameras and related equipment provided by two different manufacturers, and then score those pilot projects.

In January 2020, the Bureau will decide if they are a “useful and effective tool”. If the Bureau decides to move forward, full implementation would occur in 2020.

To find out who will carry them; how and when they’re used; when video is released to media; and more – at the Portland Police Bureau’s official website on the topic: CLICK HERE.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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