Proof of concept: Oro Valley pioneers use of police body cameras
ORO VALLEY, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) – While Police around the country consider asking their officers to wear body cameras, and Tucson Police prepare to routinely deploy cameras after trying them on a limited basis, Oro Valley Police already have two years experience with the cameras.
The lack of body camera video was a major factor in the controversial police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Body cam video, and video from personal cel phones contributed to Tucson Police deciding to impose a two week unpaid suspension on Sergeant Joel Mann after the department decided he used too much force on two students in the University Boulevard disturbances.
Arizona lawmakers are planning to set rules on how police use the cameras and the video they capture.
A lot of Oro Valley’s body camera use is on Oracle Road, with the town’s traffic enforcement. Thinking about controversial police incidents as we’ve seen lately, Lt. Chris Olson, who oversees the program, says he bets those departments wish they’d been using the sort of cameras Oro Valley has.
When Oro Valley Police officer Manny Guerrero pulls someone over he always has a special type of back up: a camera clipped to his uniform catches what happened between him and the driver.
To show what the cameras capture, Oro Valley PD shared video another officer’s camera caught on an DUI arrest. He finds the driver asleep with the motor running and wakes her up.
“Do you have an ID with you?” he asks. “You don’t? You have a wallet next to your feet.”
The woman fails a field sobriety test and the officer tells her, “Alright, you’re under arrest for DUI. You need to come with me.”
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Officer Manny Guerrero:
“Do you let them know they’re on video?”
Officer Guerrero: “Yes. Most of the time they do look and do a quick cursory search of the officer. I can see them looking and they stop right at the camera and look at it and sometimes you can see they kind of change their attitude. It’s a helper. It’s a help tool for both of us.”
Oro Valley’s cameras connect to iPads so officers can review video right away.
Depending on how serious the case is officers may store the video from 6 months to 10 years.
State lawmakers are considering a law that would control how police handle cameras and what they record.
Oro Valley Lieutenant Chris Olson would rather leave things up to a department’s discretion but he does support the bill’s effort to avoid releasing video that just embarasses someone without serving any real public interest.
Oro Valley leaves it up to officers when to turn on the cameras but Lieutenant Olson says they strike a good balance of collecting evidence and protecting the public’s privacy.
“Typically when we’re entering somebody’s house would be a good time not to record it because of the privacy issues. Unless we’re there during an investigative situationand what we need to record is of evidentiary value.”
Lieutenant Olson says Oro Valley treats video like any other evidence. The town leans towards releasing it unless doing that would compromise an active case.