The number of police officers wearing video cameras will triple with the City Council’s approval on Tuesday of the purchase of 400 additional devices.
The purchase will equip 600 officers with Taser International’s Axon flex cameras, making the police department the largest user of the Axon cameras in the country.
“The advantages are multiple,” said Police Chief Jeff Halstead. “For first-level patrol officers that are young in their careers … this ensures that their decisions and their activities were fair and within policy. Without it, it is literally sometimes just their word against what we’re hearing from either the call, the suspect or the witnesses.
“For investigators … you’re getting real-time and real-life responses to questions directly related to a criminal investigation.”
Currently, the police department has 200 cameras in use — the majority in patrol and others in the traffic division and spread among zero tolerance, gang and SWAT units.
The cameras attach to the officer’s glasses or collar.
Since Dec. 13, every graduating recruit is trained to use a camera and assigned one.
Already, Fort Worth officers have recorded more than 26,000 videos.
The videos are uploaded to Evidence.com, where detectives and supervisors can view them as evidence in criminal prosecutions, or while investigating administrative concerns or a citizen’s complaint about an officer’s behavior.
“There is absolutely no way to tamper with this evidence,” Halstead said. “It’s impossible for employees to alter it in its original state. It cannot happen.”
Videos will also be randomly audited, Halstead said.
Halstead acknowledged that the Fort Worth Police Officers’ Association previously raised concerns that the cameras could lead to management abuse.
“We understand there could be if you have an officer you know or think is doing wrong and do nothing but watch their videos all day, but that’s not what this video is for,” Halstead said.
“Striking that balance is going to take some time but we are progressively working toward that balance.”
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