Monroe Police officers to soon have body-worn cameras
MONROE — To comply with a new state law, the Monroe Police Department will equip each of its officers with a body-worn camera to record interrogations.
The City Council approved purchasing 36 body cameras for the department for $160,000 at its Feb. 8 meeting.
House Bill 1223, which took effect Jan. 1, requires the mandatory recording of any interrogation on an individual held in police custody, both in and out of the police station.
To comply, the police department’s new body camera policy authorizes cameras for 35 commissioned officers and one community officer who provides support in crime prevention and investigation, said department spokesman Cmdr. Paul Ryan. The department has been using portable videorecorders as its way to comply until the body cameras arrive.
Police Chief Jeff Jolley said he is a strong advocate of this new initiative and believes that it will provide transparency for the police department and departments across the state. Jolley also said that wearing body cameras is the best practice for police agencies and is widely accepted within the law enforcement community.
Community member and former member of the Monroe Equity Council, Aisha Sial, said she was grateful for the city’s investment.
“This work complements how people strive to implement police reform laws,” Sial said by text.
Community member James Harrigan has no complaints with the city’s $160,000 purchase of body cameras. He believes that in the past, the city has managed its finances well and although it is a substantial one-time cost, he does wonder, “what is the long term cost of maintaining the new law?”
Beginning in 2016, the police department implemented a limited scope body-worn camera program using six body cameras for officers with which to learn and practice.
According to the department’s existing policy, officers who were already equipped with body-worn cameras were required to record as much law enforcement activity as possible. However, the sensitivity of a situation allowed the officer the option to turn off or not activate the cameras.
With House Bill 1223, Monroe officers would not be afforded the same options. The new law requires that interrogations, including when giving Miranda rights, warnings or any waivers of such rights, be recorded. Officers are afforded only a few exceptions which would warrant an unrecorded interrogation, such as emergency circumstances or an individual’s refusal to be recorded.
“We did conduct a test before this legislation was put forward in the Washington State legislature,” Jolley said. “This will be a good platform for us in which we will be able to have these cameras automatically initiated in calls as the officers dispatch.”
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