Oct 26, 2023 - News

Internal complaints allege Denver sheriff's deputies aren’t using body worn cameras correctly

The Denver city jail. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Concerns over proper use of body-worn cameras is leading to a spike in internal complaints filed about Denver sheriff's deputies, according to a report from the Office of the Independent Monitor.

Why it matters: The complaints suggest deputies aren't following agency rules on body-worn cameras, an integral tool for keeping deputies accountable.

  • Cameras are required to be turned on prior to interacting with any person in custody that may result in use of force, according to department guidelines.

Driving the news: The midyear report released by the city's law enforcement watchdog office this month reviewed complaints filed through Aug. 7.

  • The office oversees internal and public complaints filed against Denver's law enforcement agencies.

By the numbers: Internal complaints against deputies rose by 369% during the first half of this year — from 42 in 2022 to 197 this year, according to the report.

  • At least two-thirds of them were related to body cam use, and were generally connected to use of force incidents.
  • Deputies sometimes failed to turn their cameras on when it was required or didn't upload or document a recording after an incident, according to the report.

Of note: The report doesn't break down where the complaints are coming from. They can be filed from deputies, their supervisors, the agency's own internal investigations unit or the city's public safety office.

Between the lines: Internal complaints are more likely to lead to discipline than those coming from the public or incarcerated people, according to the report.

The other side: Department spokesperson Daria Serna tells us the new technology has come as "a learning curve" for some staff, and the agency will continue helping deputies comply with policies and procedures.

  • While deputies in the civilian unit, who are responsible for duties like carrying out evictions, started wearing cameras in 2019, the agency decided to roll out their use for all its sworn staff starting in 2022, Serna tells us.
  • This year marks the first time all sworn staff were issued one.

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