Apr 3, 2024 - News

Police body cams coming this summer

Illustration of a film reel filled with police caution tape.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

In two months, Portland Police Bureau officers will finally begin wearing body cameras, over a decade after the Justice Department told the bureau to implement them.

Why it matters: Portland is one of the last cities of its size to roll out body cameras to its police force, even after other, smaller law enforcement agencies in Oregon have done so.

  • The devices offer full-time transparency and accountability, proponents argue.

Context: The city began exploring body cameras in 2014, two years after the DOJ settled a lawsuit with the bureau over its alleged use of excessive force against people with mental illnesses. But a yearslong dispute between the police union and city attorneys over the policies governing the use of the cameras ultimately delayed rollout.

  • Negotiations ended last year with an agreement that officers must tell internal investigators what happened before they can review body cam footage of incidents involving the use of force.

The latest: The public will see body cameras on police starting in June, bureau spokesperson Terri Wallo Strauss told Axios. The implementation phase was originally slated to begin in April.

  • Members of the bureau's Central Precinct will be the first to don the devices. A two-month pilot involving 150 officers from that precinct ended in October.

Zoom in: "We are starting with the officers who participated in the pilot, as that will be easier for them to implement," Strauss said.

  • By August, all officers in each of the city's three precincts — a total of over 800 — will be equipped with cameras.

By the numbers: In December, the city council approved $10 million to fund the body cam program for five years.

What we're watching: The city and the police union are still finalizing the body cam policies. Whether that process will include community feedback remains to be seen.

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