PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Mental Health Alliance helped moderate an online discussion Thursday about a potential police body worn camera program to implement at the Portland Police Bureau.
A researcher on the panel said that research shows the use of body worn cameras resulted in a reduction of citizen complaints in other cities using the cameras. They said the key is to let people know the cameras are rolling and it seems Portland might be on track to do that in its proposed program.

As Portland continues to iron out what its body camera program will look like, during the town hall, Dr. Dan Lawrence of CNA Corporation said cities like Milwaukee and New York that already have body camera programs in place have seen declines in citizen complaints.

Lawrence said the declines in citizen complaints were at more than 20% for those cities where studies have taken place.

“In Milwaukee we saw a reduction of 29% in citizen complaints for officers that had body worn cameras. New York just released a study in the past week or so, they found a 21% reduction in complaints, and this has been observed in many other sates as well,” Lawrence said.

Researchers believe the reduction in complaints is due to something that’s been called a “civilizing effect” for both officers and those they interact with, Lawrence noted.

“A  professor out of Arizona State theorized that there is this a civilizing effect, if people know that they have a camera and they are recording them, and officers know they have a camera on them, there will be a civilizing effect they behave different because they know they are being recorded,” Lawrence said.

In cities that were early adopters of the body cameras, citizens didn’t know that body cameras were present so researchers say notification is important to allow people to understand there is a recording happening and it appears that for now Portland is considering that as it moves ahead.

“I really appreciate that Portland is trying to implement a notification requirement that the officers notify the community member that there is a body worn camera present and they are recording during that interaction,” Lawrence said.

Comments and concerns were also presented about the body cameras and their impact on those with mental health issues.

The MHA said some of the questions and comments gathered Thursday from members of the public will be included in a brief that will be presented at a fairness hearing in January.