Commander’s corner: Scottsdale Police support use of body cameras

As a progressive and transparent law enforcement organization, the Scottsdale Police Department works diligently to evolve and grow with the community that we serve.

Commander Rich Slavin

Commander Rich Slavin

I’m excited to share the latest developments of the Scottsdale Police Department’s on-body camera program and some additional information related to equipping our officers with on-body cameras.

The department-wide on-body camera deployment strategy has been based primarily on budget constraints, as well as developing, implementing and managing the challenges presented by any new program of this size.

Implementing the on-body program in increments has allowed us to productively and efficiently troubleshoot the various technical, legal and policy issues related to the deployment of these cameras.

The Scottsdale Police Department began a pilot program in 2013 using 10 head-mounted cameras. This program evolved into the on-body program that it is today, which currently consists of approximately 100 on-body cameras deployed on officers throughout the city.

The majority of these cameras are assigned to patrol officers, however, specialty units such as the K-9 Unit, the Bike Unit and the DUI Unit are also utilizing on-body cameras. Additionally, all new officers are assigned an on-body camera upon completing the academy.

With budget approval, we are hoping to purchase and deploy an additional 100 on-body cameras during fiscal year 2016-17. Full implementation of the on-body camera program will consist of all patrol officers and patrol support assignments.

Benefits of on-body camera use:
• Provide real-time evidence gathering
• Act as an impartial eyewitness
• Increase public trust through transparency
• Assist in the civil defense of officers accused of unprofessional conduct, abuse of authority or excessive force
• Provide efficiency in prosecution
• Uphold our standards of service and professionalism

Since Sept 2015, three documented incidents involving complaints on officers have been cleared as “exonerated” or “unfounded” as a direct result of on-body camera footage.

Citizens tend to behave better when they realize they are on camera, and more than one citizen has withdrawn a complaint entirely once they were confronted with the fact that there is video footage of the incident in question.

In today’s climate, on-body cameras are the public expectation.

The Scottsdale Police Department continues to be a forward thinking and progressive agency and we enthusiastically employ the on body camera program. While the on-body cameras are a great use of technology, it is important to note that it cannot replace an officer’s perception or prior experience.

When viewing on-body camera recordings, one must keep in mind that most cameras do not follow the officer’s direct line of site or peripheral vison. An officer may perceive or predict things in their environment that the camera cannot see.

Also, as with all technology, it may fail to operate at times and must only supplement the officer’s investigation, not replace it.

The Scottsdale Police Department has been fortunate to collaborate with other Valley agencies and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to share information and develop best practices related to all aspects of on-body camera usage. We are confident that we’ve developed and implemented a program consistent with the standards our community has come to expect from the Scottsdale Police Department.

For additional questions or information please contact the Scottsdale Police on-body camera program manager Sgt. Brian Reynolds at 480-312-8179 or breynolds@scottsdaleaz.gov.

Editor’s note: Rich Slavin is the commander of the Scottsdale Police Department. His column is reprinted from the spring 2016 Scottsdale Police Newsletter.

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