Local police agencies begin wearing body cameras

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Local police agency leaders have announced officers and deputies will begin using body cameras Monday, June 11, 2018, three weeks ahead of the July 1 start date required by state law.

“I believe that body worn cameras are an effective tool to provide an additional perspective of officer-citizen interactions and help maintain public trust,” Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen says. “I’ve been looking towards implementing a body-worn camera program at the Sheriff’s Office since I was first elected Sheriff and would like to express my appreciation to the Nevada State Legislature and Washoe County Board of Commissioners for their effort to make this program a reality.”

Allen says video and audio information from body cameras can be used as evidence in criminal and internal investigations, and enhance officer training. He says it is important to understand that body camera recordings provide a limited perspective of encounters and incidents. All other available evidence, such as witness statements, officer interviews, forensic analysis, and documentary evidence, must be included and reviewed before conclusions can be reached.

About 150 uniformed Washoe County Sheriff’s Office sergeants and deputies are being issued body-worn cameras, including all Patrol Division deputies, as well as deputies with the Office’s District Court, Civil, K9, Motor, and Gang units. The cameras will supplement patrol vehicle dash cameras which have been in use at the Sheriff’s Office since the late 1990s.

Allen says release of video from body worn cameras will be available at an established fee and are subject to public records laws.

In July 2017, Governor Sandoval signed into law Nevada SB176, requiring certain uniformed sworn peace officers to wear portable recording devices, commonly referred to as Body Worn Cameras (BWC), by July 1, 2018.

Sparks Police say they began "navigating the many complex issues of funding, data storage, policies, procedures and training once SB176 was signed into law."

Sparks Police will also implement the Body Worn Camera program June 11. They say they already maintain a "robust" In-Car Camera System and are using this opportunity to use the Evidence.com feature of Axon, Inc. to combine all digital evidence into a single system. This will include all BWC footage, detective interview room footage, photos and video collected by officers on scene. In fall 2018, Sparks Police will add the newest release of Axon In-Car cameras to its overall camera and digital evidence program.

Sparks Police say, "The current In-Car Camera System has shown to be an effective law enforcement tool that reinforces the public’s perception of police professionalism and transparency and preserves factual representations of officer-citizen interactions. The implementation of BWC’s has the potential to increase our community relations, strengthen public trust in law enforcement, lower the number of citizen complaints, defend officers against false accusations, increase agency accountability, and improve officer training and evaluation."

Sparks Police continue, "The Sparks Police welcomes and embraces the addition of BWC to our camera program, nonetheless there are limitations. As we have seen with our current system, any camera and subsequent footage is only part of any given situation. The footage may depict things that an officer or bystander did not see or hear and subsequently, the officer or bystander may hear or see things that are not recorded by the BWC. We anticipate the BWC will enhance the understanding when reconstructing and evaluating the totality of circumstances in each future incident.

"Relationships between anyone, including police and the community they serve, relies on trust and open, respectful communication. Sparks Police will continue community outreach and community collaboration efforts to continually foster trust and garner support from our community. A copy of the Body Worn Camera Policy will be available June 15th at sparkspolice.com in the Top Community Resources Section under the Public Stats and Data tab."

The Reno Police Department will also being using Body Worn Cameras June 11 "during law enforcement and investigative encounters between uniformed officers and members of the community."

Reno Police say, "Long before the law was passed, members of the Reno Police Department staff started to research best practices related to the deployment of a BWC program. The research has led to procedures and practices that will allow the Reno Police Department to further our relationship and trust with the members of this community. Every officer in the Reno Police Department has been trained in the operation and policies surrounding the use of the BWC system."

All Reno uniformed officers in the Patrol section, along with the Traffic Unit, K-9 Team, Downtown Walking Team, Downtown Bicycle Team, Community Action and Outreach Officers and the Regional Gang Unit will be outfitted with Body Worn Cameras.