Oregon Progressive Party Policy Statement on Police Body Cameras

Oregon Progressive Party Policy Statement on Police Body Cameras

  • The Oregon Progressive Party calls for all Oregon Police to be equipped with body cameras as soon as certain questions are addressed.  We recommend that such questions be addressed during the 2014 Oregon legislative session. 
     
  • The Oregon Progressive Party calls on the Portland City Council to put body cameras on the Portland Police to prevent a systemic pattern of excessive force against citizens. 

Police in Oregon should be required to use body video cameras to document police interactions with citizens. This will lead to safer police encounters for everyone involved. Recent Oregon jury awards and settlements for police excessive force have put this debate over the use of body cameras at the forefront, making this the perfect time to have a healthy discussion on this issue. 
 
Police agencies around the country have started using body cameras with encouraging results. In Rialto, California, police officers have employed body cameras since February 2012. Since police body cameras have become mandatory, the number of complaints filed against officers dropped by 88% and use of force reports by officers dropped almost 60%. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan applauded the City of Rialto’s use of body cameras on police in her ruling that struck down New York’s "stop and frisk" policy. The New York City Police Department now plans to employ such cameras on some of their officers as a pilot program to gauge the effect on the number of complaints and use of force reports they write and receive.
 
With mounting scrutiny over police shootings and misconduct throughout the country, there is no question that body cameras should be mandatory on Oregon police officers, but practical questions remain about implementation and the risk of civil liberties violations. Some of the questions that need to be addressed before Oregon police can begin using body cameras are as follows:

  • Will officers be allowed to turn their cameras on and off? If so, when and how?
  • Where will the information and video content be stored? 
  • Who will have access to the content? And will officers or higher-ups be allowed to edit content?
  • Will the public through public record requests be allowed to access content? And how transparent must the police be with allowing content to be accessed by the public? 
  • How much storage space will be needed to store all the content? And how secure will that information be in this day and age where hackers can access almost anything connected to the Internet?
  • Oregon State law requires notification when police are recording people.  How will that affect police interaction with citizens?
  • How much will it cost to implement a mandatory body camera policy on all Oregon Police officers?

The Oregon Progressive Party calls on the Portland City Council to put body cameras on the Portland Police to prevent a systemic pattern of excessive force against citizens.  
 
Federal Judge Michael Simon recently approved the City of Portland’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which called for reforms of Portland Police policies, training and oversight. The settlement was reached after a federal investigation into excessive force used by Portland Police officers found a pattern of using excessive force against citizens who suffer from mental illness. In Judge Simon’s ruling, he stated his support for the use of body cameras on police officers but did not rule it mandatory.
 
Mayor Charlie Hales has publicly stated that he is in favor of putting body cameras on Portland Police officers. In an email to the Oregonian, Hales says: 

"We've long been proponents of body cameras but the technology wasn't good enough and they were expensive. The Bureau piloted a variation of clip-on cameras for the Traffic Division this summer to see if they live up to expectations. We have heard that the officers who used them like them.”
 
The Portland City Council approved $800,000 for in-car video cameras, but Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson has since indicated that police are now considering using that money to put body cameras on the 600 uniformed Portland Police officers. The body cameras would include patrol, school police, gang enforcement and traffic officers. 
 
Two of the City of Portland’s largest jury verdicts against the police for misconduct and excessive force have been rendered in the past two years. We as citizens are tired of police misconduct and excessive force, and these jury awards are a statement of this discontent. It’s clear that the time for body cameras is upon us, but we will need to work out the logistical challenges of implementation to make sure we protect our citizens' civil liberties.

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