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Tukwila PD may have answered the ultimate body-cam question

(Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

There’s concern that even if police wear body cameras they may not operate them properly or unintentionally forget to turn them on.

From ‘Cops’ to body cams: Can filming affect police behavior?

For example, The Washington Post reports that more than one-third of the cases an oversight board in D.C. investigated found that officers did not use their body cams as intended. The Post reports that officers either turned the cameras on late or too early; in 13 percent of the cases, at least one officer involved failed to use them at all.

“Law enforcement is trying to do the right thing,” Peter Newsham, interim chief of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department, told CBS earlier this year. “For our department in particular, for them to embrace this body-worn camera program that we have says to me that my folks feel like they’re doing the right thing almost all the time and they want everybody to see it.”

But trying is different than doing. That’s where the Tukwila Police Department comes in.

On Wednesday, the department announced that all uniformed officers and personnel “that are regularly out and about working with the public” are using body cameras that activate on their own. When an officer turns on his or her light bar, for example, the vehicle’s dash cam and officer’s body cam begin recording, according to the department. Body cams also begin record as soon as an officer pulls out one of the department’s new stun guns.

“This new technology will allow us to record video and audio of incidents from multiple cameras as every officer is now deploying with a camera on his/her person as well as a dash camera in their patrol vehicle,” the department said in a statement.

The department began a body-cam pilot program last June with five officers. Now more than 70 have been equipped with the technology.

Of course, the “three-prong” approach to recording may still have holes. For example, in the list of benefits of the equipment, all made by Axon, there is no mention of being able to link firearms to the cameras.

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