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TPD hopes to expand body camera program

Posted at 10:33 PM, Apr 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-29 02:04:10-04
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- The Tucson Police Department is hoping to receive a federal grant to expand it's body camera program.
 
The agency has 70 cameras, and the grant would mean an additional 300 for TPD's patrol officers.
 
Assistant Chief Carla Johnson says the key advantage to the cameras is transparency. Johnson says officers may be more professional because they know they're on camera, and citizens might be more cooperative. 
 
"It helps us reach out into the community, build community trust, because we are being transparent," Johnson said.
 
This week TPD applied for a $500,000 grant for a two year program through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Johnson says the cameras cost $849, and video storage fees are $1,200 per year for each camera.
 
Officer Brett Kaczinski says the videos are stored on a secure cloud system and can be viewed by the department on EVIDENCE.com. How long the videos are saved depends on the crime, Kaczinski said, and they mimic public records laws.
 
A video related to a felony case for example, would be saved for 109 years, Kaczniski said.
 
"If you have a traffic stop, that is maybe a brief contact or maybe a citation is written or not written that doesn't have a case report associated with it,  those are going to stay for 180 days," Kaczniski said. 
 
The emerging technology has it's downsides, Johnson said. The cameras only show one point view and may not be picking up everything the officers eyes are seeing. 
 
"It's an excellent tool, but it's an imperfect tool," Johnson said. "So the information that we glean from that we have to approach it in a way that's measured and cautious, because there are a lot of factors that come to bear when you have a piece of technology like this."
 
While the upfront and storage fees can be costly, Johnson says the department also has to pay to redact video. If TPD is releasing body cam video to the public, it might take 10 hours to take out sensitive information like medical information, addresses, etc.
 
Kaczinski says TPD has two different styles  of body cameras. One model attaches to the front of an officer's uniform, and one is attached to eyeglasses. They are manufactured by TASER International, a Scottsdale based company.
 
The department began a body camera pilot program in 2012, and rolled out 70 cameras in 2015. 
 
Johnson says TPD has written policies about how they are used. Officers activate cameras when they are en route to a call, and turn them off in certain situations, like if they are talking a victim of sexual assault. 
 
TPD will not find out if they got the grant until August or September. The agency will hold community meetings to let the public know how the program works.