PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Following the U.S. Department of Justice’s request for the city to implement a body-worn camera program for all officers, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced he has taken steps to “lay the groundwork” for such an initiative.
He directed the Portland Police Bureau to research equipment and pursue grant funding for such a program ahead of any City Council vote on the matter.
Wheeler said he remains a longstanding supporter of body cameras.
“They are used in most large cities and are shown to assist in accountability, public transparency and fewer reports of misconduct,” he said.
The mayor said he’ll work with the Department of Justice to make sure the city complies with the DOJ’s list of requests surrounding a settlement agreement, including implementing body cameras.
“We had work well underway some time ago but for reasons I’m not fully aware of — may have to with budget — the project wasn’t completed,” said PPB Lt. Greg Pashley.
Pashley said the Portland Police Bureau is in favor of body cameras and said the program is being discussed as part of contract negotiations with the Portland Police Association.
“Portland is the only large city in the country that doesn’t have body cams for police officers,” said PPA Executive Director Daryl Turner. “The Portland Police Association has advocated for body worn cameras for years. We are glad to finally see City Council support.”
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has spoken out against body cameras in the past, saying they’re expensive and there has been “inconclusive evidence that they provide police accountability and reduce police use of force.” However, Hardesty said in mid-July, “I have been researching the issue and now believe there is new technology, policies, and additional best practices to draw from that can lead to a body camera program that produces better outcomes in policing, but the devil is in the details.”
Commissioner Mingus Mapps told KOIN 6 News quick action is needed.
“There is a public safety gap. The size of our police department is roughly where it was in the early 1990s, and in the meantime our population has doubled. You can see the evidence of this in our response times,” said Mapps. “Our city is also attempting to recover from the economic impact of a global pandemic. We need to institute body cameras to ensure transparency while simultaneously achieve appropriate staffing levels for our police department. City Council needs to act with a sense of urgency.”