Spring 2020 Update:
The Portland Police Bureau fully supports body cameras.
With that said, the City Council voted to defund the Body Worn Camera program beginning fiscal year 2020-21 (July 1, 2020) due to major budget constraints—the City was facing a $75 million shortfall. It is important to note this program was being developed as a pilot and implementation had not yet begun. We had engaged in a number of community forums as part of the planning for the pilot program.
PPB encourages you to share your perspective with elected officials if you feel this is an important program. As the budget situation improves in the future, it may be a program to consider moving forward on and public input is very welcome.
What is the body worn camera program? And what is the timeline?
The Portland Police Bureau will implement a body worn pilot program, beginning this year. The Bureau is currently working on a draft Request for Proposal for companies who have this technology. Upon review of the RFP responses, two vendors will be chosen for a pilot test to be conducted at Central Precinct and the Traffic Division, tentatively scheduled for Jun-Dec 2019.
The Bureau has also begun community engagement meetings to discuss policy considerations and solicit feedback through the spring. In January 2020, the Bureau will make a determination on the viability of the cameras as a useful and effective tool. If the decision is to move forward with full implementation, a final vendor will be selected and the policy will be finalized. Full implementation would occur in 2020.
Who will wear the body worn cameras?
Uniformed officers from the Traffic Division and Central Precinct will wear the body worn cameras during the pilot phase. As part of the policy development process, PPB will determine if additional officers beyond patrol should be issued a body worn camera (e.g.: members from the Detective Division; Family Services, Tactical Operations, etc.).
Does the community want body worn cameras?
A 2015 nationwide survey found 88% of Americans supported police use of body worn cameras. When we received the funding for the system in FY16/17, there was significant local support. We are currently in discussions with Western Oregon University to assist us in a research partnership to study among other topics, the current climate and local support for this project.
Other local agencies with body worn cameras are: Beaverton, Portland State University, Oregon State Police, Hillsboro PD, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
When did PPB start looking into obtaining body worn cameras?
PPB began studying body worn cameras in 2014 and held community forums and collected online feedback on our website in 2015. In FY16/17, City Council funded the project, however, PPB was not ready to move forward and the project was put on hold. Since then, other major cities have refined key issues in policies and technology related to the systems. In 2018, PPB staff traveled to comparable sized jurisdictions in Arizona and California to gather more information about the practical realities of body worn cameras including; RFPs, policies, community engagement processes, overall costs, and technical requirements. Several lessons emerged from those trips ultimately readying PPB to move forward avoiding the mistakes made by other agencies and better understanding the emerging best practices around the use of the cameras.
Why does PPB want to implement a body worn camera program?
The Portland Police Bureau believes cameras will:
• Strengthen community trust and relationship
• Improve transparency and accountability
• Promote officer safety, while safeguarding the rights and privacy of community members
• Enhance complaint resolution and improve quality of investigations and criminal prosecution
• Improve training
What is the budget for the body worn camera program?
A one-time allotment of $834,619 was carried over from 2013 for an initial hardware purchase. Additionally, the City’s FY 2016-17 budget package provided $1.6 million for ongoing funds which included 5 full-time positions..
What are current applicable laws?
The State of Oregon passed legislation in 2015 to include ORSs: 133.741, Video cameras worn by law enforcement officers, 165.54, Recording Notification, 181A.250, No Information Gathering, and 192.345, Public Records Exemptions.
Oregon law requires the following:
• Minimum 180 days retention on recordings.
• Prior to videos being released publically, the faces of all persons (including officers) must be blurred and unidentifiable.
• Videos can only be release when it is in public interest.
• Oregon law requires the officers to announce at the beginning of the interaction that the conversation is being obtained as long as the announcement can be accomplished without causing jeopardy to the officer or any other person and without unreasonably impairing a criminal investigation.
• Oregon law requires officers to set the cameras record continuously, beginning when the officer develops reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe a crime or violation has occurred, is occurring or will occur and the officer begins to make contact with the person suspected of committing the offense.
• Oregon law says no law enforcement agency may collect or maintain information about the political, religious, or social views, associations or activities of any individual group, association, organization, cooperation, business or partnership unless such information directly relates to an investigation of criminal activities and there are reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct.
What are the key topic areas for the policy discussion?
The big policy questions include: When should the cameras be turned on? When should they stay off? How long should the recordings be kept? Will officers have access to the recordings before writing reports or responding to internal affairs inquiries?
How do I get updated information and/or provide feedback?
The Portland Police Bureau will publish information such as: meeting minutes, the project timeline, etc. on its website (portlandpolice.com). The website will also have an on-line feedback component. The Bureau will also advertise community forums through traditional media and its social media sites.
What happens when the pilot concludes?
As part of the project, the Bureau will have an outside research partner who will help develop performance measures and evaluate the impacts and outcomes of the investment into this technology. After the pilot, the Bureau will go back to City Council with the results and a decision will be made to terminate or continue with full implementation.