All Salem police to wear body cameras starting Monday

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 5:44 PM PST
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SALEM Ore. (KPTV) - More than a year and a half after the Salem City Council approved money for police body cameras, the Salem Police Department said all officers will be wearing them starting Monday.

Police Chief Trevor Womack said it took months of preparations to equip every officer with the cameras. This included writing a policy for camera use with all stakeholders, testing three different types of cameras and then training their officers how to use the selected Motorola cameras.

Police cars will also be installed with inside cameras over the next few months.

“We look at this as another tool to help officers document very well in their reports of what occurred,” Chief Womack said.

Chief Womack said these cameras will cost the city a little more than $400,000 a year. The first two years of the five-year contract with Motorola will be paid for by a state grant. He said it’s an investment that is long overdue. The cameras will help document calls as simple as a dog being stuck on a fence to as complicated as an officer-involved shooting.

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“In my mind, it’s becoming a standard piece of law enforcement equipment,” Chief Womack said. “I think it plays a key role in our vision of being a modern, contemporary, policing agency.”

Salem Police Employee’s Union President Scotty Nowning said his members are completely on board with these cameras.

“I sent out a survey to my members and 84% of the members, even off that initial question do you support body cameras, were a yes they wanted them,” Nowning said.

According to Salem Police’s 14-page body-worn camera policy available here, the cameras are required to be on for suspected criminal violations, traffic stops, victim witness reports, moving suspects, and other circumstances officers feel the need to record. There are recording restrictions for child abuse victims, sex assault victims, undercover officers and confidential informants. Nowning said the cameras also give an objective view of a potential complaint filed against an officer.

“The camera can rewind kind of what happened and professional standards can look at that,” Nowning said. “If the officer made a mistake it will show it. If the officer didn’t make a mistake it will show it as well.”

The Chief said all videos will be stored for a minimum of 190 days, but if a video is part of an active criminal case, the department will keep it until the case is closed.

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“I think it helps with our trust-building efforts in the community, it does a lot for transparency and mutual accountability, for me that’s the biggest value,” Chief Womack said. “But it also has a safety component which is enhancing the quality of our investigations, which is about bringing justice to victims and holding offenders accountable. "