WVC PD considering body cameras for all officers

Posted at 8:08 PM, Nov 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-26 23:38:59-05

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - Utah's second largest city may soon have its law enforcement officers recording everything they do.

West Valley City's police chief says body cameras are critical for restoring public trust. If approved, the city will join a growing list of departments across the state adopting the same policy, but how do officers feel about it?

Chief Lee Russo says most of his officers support the idea of wearing body cameras. However the question is will they be recording their every move or rolling at the officer's discretion?

"You're going to have people on both sides of the issue," Russo, who wants every sworn officer in his city to start patrolling with body cameras, said.

"From one end of the spectrum is giving the officer the absolute discretion when they're going to turn it on, the other end of the spectrum is you're going to run it continuously and there are only a few select times when you take a rest break that you can turn it off," Russo said.

He hasn't decided which policy to go with yet but he wants the cameras mounted to the sides of the officers' glasses. They have the capability of recording everything police see for up to 10 hours. The video will automatically be uploaded and cataloged to a third-party server.

During a November news conference after the Saratoga Springs officers who shot and killed Darrien Hunt were cleared, Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP of Utah, said, "the NAACP is seeking transparency and accountability. We do not want our young people to look at police officers as their executioners, but as authority of safety."

The NAACP has teamed up with a Utah Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, to create legislation requiring every cop in the state to wear a body camera, but some have raised concerns about their use: Could it compromise a person's privacy?

"To us, the most important thing is that when they start using body cams, there is a policy in place that clearly sets out rules that don't make the body cams a tool alone for police officers to use for investigations, but also a tool that protects the rights of the people the police are interacting with," said John Mejia, the legal director of the ACLU of Utah, in September.

Russo says the record button may hold the answer to restoring public trust.

"When a complaint comes in, we can quickly go and take a look at exactly what happened and many times the officer is actually cleared when that occurs," he said.

It's unclear how much this is going to cost West Valley City. The City Council still has to approve it, but the plan is to have all 200 officers equipped with body cameras by January 2015.