PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Following a decade-long debate, the Portland Police Bureau will begin issuing body cameras to its officers – making Portland the last major U.S. city to implement the devices.

The bureau will begin its pilot program next week by giving 150 officers the cameras to wear in the central precinct – including the bike squad and the Focused Intervention Team that responds to calls across the city.

The cameras must be on for every interaction they have with people, and in many instances, the cameras will turn on by themselves. That will happen when an officer pulls a gun or taser out of a holster and when they turn on a vehicle’s lights or sirens. Otherwise, officers are required to turn the devices on themselves.

The body cameras were required by the Department of Justice in a settlement after Portland police officers were found to use excessive force.

However, videos will be subject to the same public records requests processes and laws as other records – meaning videos will be redacted to protect identities.

“To require them to hit this camera every single time – it’s going to take some time to rewire and remember, ‘I have to do that,’” said Lt. Nathan Sheppard.

Officer David Baer of the PPB bike squad said the officers have all been trained on the policies for these cameras.

“It’s been made very clear to us when you are supposed to have your camera on and I expect as an officer here,” Baer said. “If there is an intentional policy of not activating your camera, I would expect to be disciplined.”

Aaron Schmautz, the president of the Portland Police Association, said the bureau is working to ensure record requests will be handled in a timely manner.

“We’re going to have to hire some folks,” he said. “That reality is going to be true throughout the justice system.”

Sheppard says there is money set aside for the records department to handle the requests for videos. However, if videos are part of an active investigation, they may not be released to the public or through a public records request.

In recordings, officers will need to voice why they turned off a camera or muted its audio at a scene. They’ll also need to inform people that their body cameras are recording to comply with state law.

“I think that when you put a camera on anybody, it will both serve to moderate behavior on both sides of that interaction,” Schmautz said.

PPB says they have to negotiate a contract with the vendor Axon, rehash training, and may even tweak some policies during the pilot. They expect every officer to have a camera anytime between April and August of 2024.

“This is a new piece of technology for everybody,” Schmautz said. “The answer to the question universally is we’re going to have to work together.