By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
It’s not quite the same thing as a kid getting a video game for Christmas, but Bend Police say they are excited to begin testing body cameras.
Officers started using the cameras yesterday and testing will continue for the next two months.
The goal is to increase transparency and improve public trust in how police do their job.
“It’s as simple as pushing a button, now it’s recording. Then if I want to stop it, it’s a double-click,” said Bend Police Officer Zachary Childers.
“So far it’s awesome. I love it. I think it’s going to be a great asset to us. I think it’s going to help give us that transparency for the community so we can show the good things that we are doing every day. We want people to see what we are doing and how we are interacting with people. How we are conducting investigations.”
The Bend Police Department has been asking Santa–the Bend City Council–for body cameras for several years.
“Our community supports body-worn cameras with all our community surveys. We are very excited to finally be able to have funding and start the implementation of the cameras early summer once we decide which brand or vendor we are going to go with,” said Lt. Juli McConkey.
Eight officers are testing Watch Guard brand body cameras through January.
They’ll test Axon brand body cameras in February, compare ease of use, quality of information recorded and, perhaps most importantly, ease of file sharing for evidence and prosecution purposes.
Right now officers are figuring out where to place the body cameras on their equipment vests which carry about 30 pounds of gear.
Fortunately, the cameras are small and lightweight compared to the sidearm, handcuffs and first aid kits all officers carry.
“I think it’s important the public realize when the officers are recording during a face-to-face interaction, if something is happening behind the officer, it’s not going to catch the video.
It is one tool we can use. It isn’t the end-all, be-all of what’s happening,” McConkey said.
For now, police officers involved in the body camera tests are making sure the devices are user friendly and don’t interfere with their duties.
Once a decision is made, the cameras will cost about $1 million to implement across the force.
The price includes the cameras, computers and staffing to manage the video files.
The Redmond Police Department has been using body cameras since 2017.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department is also currently testing different brands of body cameras.