20 Raleigh police officers to get body cameras in test program

Police will begin deploying body-worn and dashboard-mounted cameras next week in an evaluation that will test equipment from three vendors, the department said Monday.

Twenty officers will get body-mounted cameras and will be trained how to use each company’s version during the tests. Each vendor will have a month for its product.

Five of the 20 officers will also have integrated dash-mounted cameras in their cars.

The 20 are uniformed patrol officers, spokesman Jim Sughrue said. All of the testers will be officers who regularly have contact with the public, he said.

The department issued a memorandum spelling out when body-worn cameras must be activated and some situations in which they are not allowed to be turned on.

The policy also says that once cameras are turned on, police cannot turn them off or put them in standby mode “until the conclusion of an officer’s involvement in an event.”

An officer has to say on the recording why the camera is being turned off, the memorandum says.

The cameras have to be turned on “during all field contacts involving actual or potential violations of the law,” which the memorandum says include traffic stops, suspicious people or vehicles, arrests and “voluntary encounters of an investigative nature.”

Police also have to use the cameras for “unlawful disturbances,” calls that involve emotionally or mentally disturbed people, calls that police have been told involve weapons or violence and any calls that involve a crime that is reported to be in progress when officers are sent.

The department plans to equip 600 officers with body-worn cameras over the next three years, its statement on Monday said.

Taser, the company that makes stun guns carried by many police officers in the U.S., will be the first vendor to field 20 body cameras and five car cameras.

Sughrue said the names of the other two vendors will be disclosed when their test periods begin.

The test will run between three and four months to accommodate 30 days for each company’s equipment to be in the field and cameras to be switched out between vendors, Sughrue said.

Each officer’s body-worn camera will be integrated with the dash-mounted camera from the same vendor if his or her car is one of the five chosen for that equipment, the city said.

The test cameras in the cars will be separate from dash cameras in police cruisers now, Sughrue said.

Each vendor will install the equipment needed to download data from its units, Sughrue said. The policy says that each officer who has a camera has to go to one location at the end of his or her shift to have video downloaded.

The memorandum says recordings have to be saved for at least 180 days for traffic stops, and that ranges up to 20 years for felony cases and indefinitely for professional standards investigations or what it calls “critical incidents.”

“Critical incidents” include any officer-involved shooting and anything else that an officer does that “results in the death or serious physical injury of a citizen.”

Ron Gallagher: 919-829-4572, @RPGKT