Portland police set to begin body camera pilot test next week

After years of discussion, Portland Police officers will begin wearing body cameras next week, as part of a pilot test.
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 9:10 AM PDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2023 at 6:24 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – After years of discussion, Portland Police officers will begin wearing body cameras next week, as part of a pilot test.

The first test comes following a vote by the Portland City Council on April 26 that unanimously adopted a negotiated agreement for Portland police body-worn cameras. The President of PPB’s union says the big point of contention on these negotiations was how and when officers could view their own body camera footage after a deadly use of force.

SEE ALSO: Portland City Council unanimously passes police body camera agreement

But with the Council’s approval and the Union in agreement with the plan, the pilot test will begin Monday, Aug. 21 and run through Oct. 19.

Officer David Baer is on the Portland Police bike squad. He and his team will be part of the 150 officers who will get this body-worn camera made by Axon.

“It’s going to show a completely irrefutable account from my perspective,” Baer said.

Portland Police said the cameras will automatically turn on if an officer’s gun is removed from its holster or if a Taser is deployed.

Officers are required to turn on the cameras for every interaction, except for sexual assault cases.

“If I was going to stop him for a violation, it would look like something like this. I would activate my body-worn camera, I would tell him who I am and that I’m recording. ‘Hey I’m Officer Dave Baer from Portland police and you’re being audio and video recorded,’” Baer said.

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Jason Kafoury, a civil rights attorney, said even though it’s a long time coming, now is the best time to implement body-worn cameras.

“It’s taken way too long for Portland police to get body cameras,” Kafoury said. “Video doesn’t lie. From our experience of decades of excessive force cases, police don’t always tell the truth about what happened.”

Kafoury said these cameras will help increase transparency and hold officers accountable for their actions. He said they would’ve been a crucial tool during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests

“We probably had six or eight different clients that had serious excessive force cases almost none were on video,” Kafoury said. “This would have really helped shine a light on what was incredibly excessive force.”

SEE ALSO: 13 vehicles recovered, 11 arrested in car theft operation by Portland police

The cameras are constantly recording. However, the system refreshes every 30 seconds, negating what was just recorded. A full audio and video capture only occurs once the officer manually activates the record function, which Kafoury thinks is problematic.

“It allows the police to say things that they know won’t be recorded and I don’t think that’s fair,” Kafoury said.

After the trial run Portland Police says they will use the data they collected to fine-tune any issues. By the fall of 2024, the bureau expects body-worn cameras on all of its officers.

“To protect the police and the public it’s time to have video documented evidence of what happens, play by play,” Kafoury said.

Read more about the plan here.