TIGARD, Ore. (KOIN) — All sworn officers with the Tigard Police Department will soon have body-worn cameras.
The department has had dash cameras in patrol vehicles and a limited number of body cameras for K9 handlers, traffic officers, community service officers and school resource officers for more than a decade but those systems are outdated, Tigard police said. About 11% of the department’s officers currently wear body cameras.
Officer Kyle Spitler said he’s been wearing one on the job for the last four years and sees it as an important resource.
“It can retell a situation without the emotions being involved that I may have or a community member or witness may have,” Spitler said. “It can just paint a clear picture about what actually took place.”
The proposal to upgrade the department’s technology recently received unanimous support from the Public Safety Advisory Board and the Tigard City Council.
The expansion also includes new dash cams and backseat cameras, Tasers, interview room technology and digital storage.
The five-year contract for the technology has a $1.46 price tag which will be paid for with existing funds in the department’s operating budget and reserves from the City of Tigard’s general fund.
Sgt. Leigh Erickson said the new cameras won’t need to be manually activated by officers but will instead be triggered automatically by certain events.
“We have attachments to our holsters that if we draw our firearm, it will turn the camera on for us,” he said. “If we activate our Taser, it’ll turn the camera on for us. Because it’s integrated to our in-car systems, if we activate our emergency lights, like to get through traffic or to initiate a traffic stop, it’ll turn the cameras on. If we get in a crash, it’ll turn all the cameras on.”
The videos are automatically uploaded to a cloud server and cannot be tampered with, edited, or deleted.
“When we looked at these for what other agencies around us were doing, we know that the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Hillsborough Police Department, Beaverton Police Department and Sherwood Police Department, as well as the Oregon State Police have body cameras,” said Erickson.
Body cameras are not currently worn by members of the Portland Police Bureau. The PPB has discussed the possibility of using them since 2019 but officials say the bureau lacks the necessary funds due to the decision last year to slash millions from the bureau’s budget. Portland is among a dwindling number of major U.S. cities still not using police body cameras.
Erickson said Tigard police officers will start wearing the cameras in about a month once paperwork and training has been completed.