(TNS) — PASCO, WASH. — Pasco, Wash., officers will soon have one new piece of gear unlike any other used by police in the Tri-Cities: a body camera.
The department is on the verge of issuing a camera to each patrol officer about two years after the city council approved their use.
The department researched and tested several brands before settling on a $60,000 annual contract with Axon, formerly Taser International.
“We had three different officers testing different manufacturers,” Sgt. Scott Warren said.
Axon is one of the major makers of body cameras, along with being the dominant stungun maker.
The city joins a number of agencies across the state that have added body cameras to their gear lists.
The national dialogue is mixed about the usefulness of cameras in keeping officers and the public safe.
Rialto, Calif., was one of the first cities to use them in 2012.
The department saw a 50 percent drop in the number of times force was used, as well as fewer complaints.
A 2017 study using 2,000 officers in Washington, D.C., found they didn’t affect officer behavior.
Warren said that from his experience, irate people tend to calm down when they’re being recorded.
In the lead up for the council’s approval, Police Chief Bob Metzger had said having cameras would have eased concerns about what officers were facing.
Any time an officer is enforcing the law, it will be recorded, giving officers and the public a record of the interaction, Warren said.
The camera will automatically begin recording if an officer turns on his emergency lights and siren.
The department’s newer Taser stunguns also will turn on the camera if an officer readies them.
Axon’s camera battery lasts about 12 hours, and each has an internal storage that allows for about a day’s worth of recording.
At the end of their shifts, the officers leave the camera in a docking station, and the video is uploaded to a central computer at Axon.
“It’s going to be another great tool to that officers can use,” Warren said. “In today’s age, everything is on video.”
The state wrote guidelines for what can be released to the public to protect privacy.
Images such as the inside of homes, minors and victims of domestic violence or sexual assault are exempt from public disclosure.
Along with recording an officer’s behavior, the footage can also be used as evidence in crimes, and can sync with an officer’s cell phone camera to let them look around corners without putting themselves in harm’s way.
The camera has a 140-degree view, and if multiple officers are on the scene, the cameras can give people a chance to see an entire image.
The camera’s microphones also mute background noise, giving a clearer recording of what people at the scene are saying.
The city is still finalizing procedures for using the cameras, along with working with the city’s technology department on setting up the infrastructure, Warren said.
Officials with Axon came to the city Tuesday for training. Those officers will train the rest, Warren said.
Pasco police already is just one of two departments in the Tri-Cities to use dash cameras; they’re the only one to use body cameras.
Benton and Franklin county sheriff’s officials said their offices don’t plan to use body cameras.
Kennewick police Chief Ken Hohenberg has previously said his department did not plan to use them.
©2018 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.