Everett Police will put body cameras on all its officers
EVERETT — All Everett Police officers in uniform will be wearing body cameras starting sometime next year, thanks to a U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) grant.
The Police Department won the grant, worth $300,000, in mid-October.
It will pay for the startup costs to equip 150 cameras for 150 officers. The digital recordings will be kept on an internet cloud server. The camera company will store the files; the city would handle public disclosure requests for videos.
Police Chief Dan Templeman praises body cameras for adding transparency for officers and interactions with the public. He has said body-worn cameras reduce the chances of officers being assaulted, and also reduce acts of force by officers, as well as providing neutral evidence when analyzing facts of an incident. Data from police departments that already have officers wearing body cameras broadly backs up these statements.
The department field-tested 10 body cameras in a six-month pilot program earlier this year.
The department will buy Axon brand body cameras with the grant money. Axon is the company that originated as Taser, the stun gun makers. Axon cameras were also used for the pilot program, police department spokesman Officer Aaron Snell said.
The department wrote a body camera policy for the pilot program, which Snell said would not be edited for when body-worn cameras become standard across the board.
The policy says that an officer must keep his or her camera affixed on the chest. They must begin recording “prior to engaging in law enforcement activity” and not turn it off “until the incident has concluded,” except when a “heightened expectation of privacy exists” for the situation. Two examples of privacy are to use discretion when talking with a witness or to halt recording while discussing sensitive matters relating to a criminal investigation. If an officer turns off the camera, the officer must document why, the policy states.
The camera program, including video file storage, will cost $270,000 a year to operate, Templeman said.
The city’s Criminal Justice Fund will pay for the camera program; it is not taking money from the general city budget. The Criminal Justice Fund gets much of its money from a voter-approved 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax measure specifically for law enforcement.
The cameras will be just for the 150 uniformed officers who patrol the streets. The police department’s other 60 employees work as administrative staff, plainclothes detectives, in parking enforcement or have other duties not tied to patrol work.
The department is fortunate to win the grant, Snell said.
The Police Department is one of 40 police departments to win a Department of Justice grant for body cameras, and it is the only law enforcement agency in Washington state to win a Justice body camera grant this year.
“While the cost of these cameras is high, we believe that the benefit of transparency and mitigation of injuries and liability make the expenses worth the investment,” Templeman said in a December 2019 press release about the pilot program.
Templeman was appointed police chief in June 2014 as a promotion from operations deputy chief when Chief Kathy Atwood retired.
Since 2017, the department has required all officers to take officer bias training about cultural awareness, and the department also trains officers for incident de-escalation.
In September, the department was one of 30 in the nation accepted into a new program called ABLE (Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement). Everett Police was allowed to join because of its established protocols and culture. The ABLE program teaches officers to be accountable to each other — such as how to stop police misconduct by fellow officers, and how to step in and stop a situation when seeing a fellow officer being rough with a suspect or otherwise doing something harmful while on duty.
Photo courtesy Everett Police Department
Everett police officers field-tested body cameras earlier this year for a six-month pilot program. On these two officers, the cameras are seen on their chests under their badges.
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