Chandler’s Police Chief Wants All Officers to Wear Body Cameras
Chandler’s police chief wants to equip all of the city’s officers with body-worn cameras.
During a Jan. 29 presentation, Chief Sean Duggan told a City Council subcommittee that a test period during which about 40 cameras were used showed the benefits of adopting them department-wide.
He proposed the purchase of 180 Axon cameras produced by Scottsdale-based Taser International, at a cost of $991,000. The cameras would be paid for with funds generated by forfeited assets collected by police, which the department can use to supplement its budget. Chandler’s fund has more than enough to cover the cost, which would include the related storage system, he said. He proposed a five-year contract with the company, possibly as early as the next fiscal year’s budget.
“Cameras will absolutely help us send the message that we are proud of our organization and we are held to the highest standards of accountability,” Duggan said. The cameras would attach to officers’ collars.
Duggan said use of cameras can influence both the behavior of officers and those they encounter in a positive way, and as a result, reduces the potential for use of force.
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“Any opportunity to reduce the use of force and need to use force is absolutely a critical positive for us,” he said.
The use of cameras can help resolve complaints against officers quicker and reduce them overall, while providing another means for gathering evidence in a case, he said.
Duggan also cited ongoing concerns with the use of cameras, including the privacy of people who police encounter.
“Do we record in someone’s house? Do we record in a hospital?” he said, citing juveniles as another example.
Officers initially will be encouraged to use the cameras in most situations but use their discretion as to when to record, Duggan said. The one exception will be domestic violence calls, in which they will be required to record, he said.
Using the same guidelines, as the test period went on, the department saw increased frequency of use, as officers became more comfortable with them.
“It showed us that recording on their own, they see the value and they are recording the majority of their interactions,” Duggan said. “What I fully expect is we will see an increase in the (video) storage on behalf of the officers.”
During the test period, police had 10 complaints against officers who used the cameras, Duggan said. Of those, six were withdrawn and four resulted in the officer being cleared. In addition, two other complaints in which a camera was operating found that officers did not follow proper department procedures during an encounter, he said.
The use of body cameras by police gained heightened attention last year after several controversial incidents nationally in which police use of force resulted in a suspect’s death.
Several Valley police departments already have plans for full implementation of body cameras, including Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe, Glendale, Avondale and Peoria, Duggan said. Surprise already has moved to them, while Phoenix and Scottsdale are testing them on a limited basis.
“If this were to be approved for implementation in the next fiscal year, we would be one of the first fully implemented programs (in the Valley),” Duggan said.
In its test-period before going to full-implementation, Mesa police reported a 40-percent drop in complaints filed against officers and a 75-percent drop in use-of-force complaints.
Chandler Councilman Terry Roe said that, while he welcomed the idea of public accountability for police, he is concerned about the privacy issues that could arise.
“If I had a domestic violence (situation) in my home, and police came, possibly for the first time in my life … and videotaped all around my house, and folks in the house, a most traumatic thing, I’d have some concern about having that seen over, and over and over again.”
In response, Duggan said that police are faced with people everywhere who now are armed with cell phone cameras that could capture an officer’s actions at any time. “Everyone else is painting the narrative, and we are not,” he said.
“It’s being filmed at an exponential rate and we expect that. We know that every person out there is a reporter because they have a camera — except us.”
Sgt. Joe Favazzo, a Chandler police spokesman, said the cameras likely would be phased in but no timetable has been set.
The expenditure to purchase the cameras would be subject to City Council approval.