Camas Police Department to begin body-worn camera program

The program will allow officers to record all their field actions

The Camas Police Department will begin a full-time, body-worn camera program starting in April, Chief Mitch Lackey announced Wednesday.  The department contracted with the AXON company last fall for the equipment, including software and data storage, which is necessary for a body worn camera program to meet the new state requirements for recording custodial interviews.  Now, the department is ready to take the next step and institute a full, body-worn camera program, which will allow officers to record all their field actions.

The Camas Police Department will begin a full-time, body-worn camera program starting in April, Chief Mitch Lackey announced Wednesday.
File photo

In February 2021, Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik, and the Clark County Prosecutor’s Action and Reform Committee, put out a joint letter to the community and all local governments.   In that letter, the Prosecutor’s Office stressed the importance of implementing body worn camera programs for all local law enforcement agencies.  In addition to being a valuable tool for prosecutors, body worn cameras also build community trust by demonstrating transparency and openness into the way police officers carry out their duties.  The Clark County Prosecutor’s Office hoped that local governments would work diligently to secure funding for this important tool. 

Golik recently praised Camas PD for their quick work on establishing the program.

“I want to thank the Camas Police Department for their leadership in implementing a body worn camera system,” Golik said. 

“The Prosecutor’s Office is in strong support of body camera systems. Our office’s mission to seek justice is a shared mission with law enforcement agencies. Our joint mission will be furthered through evidence that will be gathered by body cameras. Law Enforcement body cameras systems are a critical tool that will help ensure the public has confidence in our community’s criminal justice system. The Camas Police Department should be congratulated for moving forward on body cameras,” he said. 

While Camas Police officers possessed the AXON equipment for the more limited purpose of the custodial recordings mandated by the state, there was always a plan to move toward implementing a full body worn camera program, which is the program that will begin next month.  

“I am extremely grateful to former Mayor Ellen Burton, current Mayor Steve Hogan, as well as the entire Camas City Council, for their support for this program,” said Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey. “Without their guidance, and budgetary support, we would not have been able to successfully bring this to the community.”   

Last year, the Camas City Council authorized a five-year lease with AXON for the equipment and data storage, in the amount of $311,168.  In addition to the equipment costs, there will be some increased staffing needs in the police department’s records unit who will handle the public records requests for the videos.  The department hopes to add a full-time Police Records Clerk later this year to meet that need. 

The city was able to fund the start-up of the body worn camera program through a combination of general fund dollars and one-time revenue provided by the State of Washington for criminal justice purposes.  In addition, the police department has also applied for grants, however, no grant funding has been received yet. 

Over the past few months, the department administration and city management team worked closely with the labor group representing Camas police officers to develop a body worn camera policy, which is a critical piece of the body worn camera program.  The new policy provides officers guidance on when they’re expected to use their cameras, and in what settings that they are allowed to turn the cameras off.  It balances the desire by the public for transparency along with protecting individual privacy rights. 

Officers will now begin training on the new program in small groups and will start wearing their body worn cameras immediately after completing the training. Because of this, the community may notice some officers with cameras, and others without during this initial period. However, Chief Lackey stated that all Camas officers will likely complete the training by the end of April 2022. 

The video data created by the body worn camera program is stored by the AXON company and is retained for the period of time mandated by the Washington State Archivist. Depending on what type of incident was captured on the video, the retention of that video is mandated for varying amounts of time.

“This is a big step for the Camas Police Department, and more importantly, the right step,” Lackey said. “Our officers do outstanding work each and every day in this community and these cameras will now document that work for all to see.  In law enforcement, disputes do sometimes arise about what was done, what was said or what actually happened. These cameras will now create a video record that should help resolve some of those disputes,” he said.

Information provided by Camas Police Department.

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