The Provo Police Department has spent the last two years testing body cameras. Now the department sees the implementation of these cameras becoming a reality in the near future.
Captain John Geyerman of the Provo Police Department said the testing process is more than just finding the right camera. Answering many legal questions and creating policies for the use of the cameras and their footage presents new and unique challenges.
“We are going to implement them, but we are taking our time so we can get all the particulars worked out before we jump right in. There are still a lot of unanswered questions,” Geyerman said.
Questions regarding policies for privacy, camera usage and access to footage are some of the main concerns that will be answered at a national body camera symposium held in Las Vegas this month.
Provo Police Lieutenant Brian Wolken believes implementing the cameras is not just a good idea but an inevitable action.
“They are a technology that is beneficial for us,” Wolken said. “This is something that these officers are going to have to wear in the future at some point. So now is the time for us to grab on to that technology.”
When testing a camera, Geyerman said, officers look at certain components such as battery life, the fit with the uniform, camera angles, quality of video and how user friendly it is in the field.
Another major factor is the cost. Cameras range from $200 to $900. However, Wolken said, that’s not even the biggest expense.
“The most expensive part of of it is data storage,” Wolken said. “We looked at one system that was going to run us half a million dollars over a five-year period for the cameras and for the data storage.”
West Valley City officers began using cameras in March. Police Chief Lee Russo said he is already seeing the benefits.
“We have noted a decrease in complaints against our officers,” Russo said. “Initial complaints that we received early on can now be easily reviewed, and we can clarify that the officers had done nothing wrong.”
Russo said their findings are consistent with those of other departments: Body cameras are protecting the officers.
However, Geyerman said, the cameras don’t always tell the full story. He can recall situations in the testing process where the cameras could capture only half the scene.
“You don’t get the full story from a body camera,” he said. “People think it’s this great panacea that is going to show everything that happens, and that just doesn’t happen.”
In a study conducted by Utahpolicy.com, 83 percent of Utahns want the officers serving in their community to be equipped with recording devices. Russo said this is one of the driving forces that led them to incorporate the body cameras.
In Russo’s search for the right body camera, his department tested eight different platforms from seven different vendors over a nine-month period. In order to make the appropriate decision relating to policy, his team reached out to other organizations that had already been through the process.
As for privacy rights, Russo said, the body cameras fully comply with Utah laws.
“Utah only requires one-party consent, which means if only one person involved in the conversation is consenting to it, they can record it.”
The Provo Police Department hopes to implement the cameras sometime in the next couple of months.