Portland police are reviving their effort to equip officers with body cameras nearly four years after a federal judge urged their use in the city.
A new program manager is leading a team within the Police Bureau to seek public input to draft policies to govern use of the cameras, retention of the recordings and access to the footage.
Tammy Mayer, a civilian employee, kicked off the first of 18 community meetings Friday in Northeast Portland.
Police also hope to work closely with Western Oregon University’s criminal justice graduate program to develop performance measures to evaluate the impact of the cameras.
The City Council four years ago awarded $834,610 to put more cameras in police cars, but the bureau decided instead to use the money for body cameras. The city also put aside another $1.6 million in annual funding for the program in fiscal 2016-17.
But the reserve remained untapped after Mayor Ted Wheeler expressed a reluctance to move forward without more information.
“We haven’t really done anything with that money. We’re ready now,’’ Mayer said Friday.
She plans to address the City Council about her team’s efforts and research by the end of the month.
She hopes to post a request for proposals for vendors in February and select two companies to provide cameras for testing by Central Precinct officers during a six-month pilot program from June through December.
The goal, she said, is to equip officers across the bureau with cameras by October 2020.Mayer is a former U.S. Air Force security forces officer and commander who joined the Police Bureau in October 2015 and spearheaded the rollout of a new regional law enforcement computer records management system. She said she recognizes she’s repeating a process that others in the Police Bureau have already undertaken and will incorporate the earlier public comments on body cameras in the renewed effort.
Questions to work out, she said, include: Determining who will wear the cameras, when they must be turned on or shut off, how long to keep the footage and whether officers can view the video before writing reports or getting interviewed for internal affairs inquiries.
U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon, who monitors the city’s settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over police use of force against people with mental illness, has voiced support for the cameras. In a 2014 ruling approving the agreement that called for police reforms, he wrote:
“The court notes that as the technology in this area continues to improve and become more dependable and affordable, more city police departments in the United States are choosing to employ this technology in ways that protect both law enforcement officers and the public they serve.”
Next week, the Police Bureau will include Mayer’s PowerPoint presentation on its website and more information about the revived body camera project.