“A police officer would rather risk possible lenient discipline for failing to turn on the body camera rather than the more serious discipline that might take place following an incident of police brutality,” said Denver resident Caryn Sodaro who identified herself as having been a victim of law enforcement violence that wasn’t recorded. All residents who spoke at tonight’s Quarterly Forum of the Citizen’s Oversight Board (COB) supported the Body Worn Camera (BWC) program but criticized the Denver Police Department and Denver Sheriff Department for the program’s failure to record interactions with the public. In its 2014 Annual Report released on March 10, 2015, the Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) that oversees disciplinary systems in the Denver Police and Denver Sheriff Departments found that only 26% of incidents involving use of force were recorded by the cameras and that 44% were not recorded because the officer-a supervisor or an off-duty officer-was not required to turn the camera on. In other cases, 11 of 45 officers reported that they did not have time to turn on the cameras because of the nature of the incident or that equipment or operator failure occurred.
The pilot program of Officer Worn Cameras was implemented in June of 2014 only in District 6 of Denver’s downtown following public outcry after several incidents of local and national officer involved shootings. Denver residents criticized police officials in District 6 for being absent from the meeting. Also receiving criticism for being absent was Chief of Police Robert White and the police union that was reported to have expressed opposition to the new program.
Members of the COB and the Independent Monitor Nick Mitchell encouraged public input in the upcoming weeks while the OIM listed nine recommendations for improvement to the program including additional training for activation, the requirement of all officers to wear cameras, the requirement of officers to keep cameras on, and to notify citizens that they are being recorded. In the case that failure to record takes place, documentation would be needed and if necessary possible discipline to the officer for failing to comply with BWC policy.
The Citizen’s Oversight Board meets the 1st and 3rd Fridays of every month at 10 a.m. in Denver at the Wellington Webb Municipal Building, 201 Colfax, Dept. 1201. Public comment is invited.