PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Department of Justice sent a letter to the city attorney and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell on Monday with recommendations for police body camera use, according to documents obtained by KOIN 6 News.
Among the DOJ recommendations, includes a reform that body cams should automatically activate when a “member draws a firearm,” according to the letter.
The DOJ also suggests that body-worn camera recordings, “may be disclosed without a public records request,” and that “recordings in their original form will be maintained by a third-party vendor that the City contracts with to provide BWC services; however, the City will retain ownership,” the DOJ said.
In April, the city of Portland was put on notice that it was not in compliance with its 2014 settlement to enact certain police accountability reforms including body cameras.
This DOJ letter comes as city leaders are meeting Wednesday for Portland’s fall Budget Monitoring Process where potential funding for police reforms may be decided amid the city’s budget surplus.
Mayor Ted Wheeler’s budget proposal includes more than $2.8 million towards body cams for PPB.
In the past, Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has been one of the more critical voices when it comes to body cams. However, Hardesty has since changed her position, and with some caveats could be in favor of the reform.
“My thinking has evolved since 2012 when we first started about body cameras. Now, knowing that we can hire a third-party vendor that would own the footage, knowing that police will not have access to body camera footage prior to writing their written report, I am much more comfortable. Not to mention, the DOJ is strongly encouraging us to buy body cams,” Hardesty said.
Along with Mayor Wheeler, commissioner Mingus Mapps and Portland Police Bureau Chief Lovell also told KOIN 6 News they support body cameras for police.
KOIN 6 News reached out to commissioners Carmen Rubio and Dan Ryan and have not heard back.
Hardesty told KOIN 6 News that the system the DOJ is encouraging them to implement is more in line with what the community wants.
Despite potential support for the reform, Hardesty is unsure if funding from Portland’s BMP will go towards body cameras.
“This budget process is unique for a fall BMP. There are pieces of the $62 million plus package that I support, there are pieces I don’t support. So I don’t know yet. I’m still trying to figure it out, like the rest of the public, right?” Hardesty noted.
“The question is, does this budget put us on path to more equity? Or more division,” Hardesty said.