PARKER, Colo. -- When it comes to creating a balanced and fair policy for use of body cameras, the Parker Police Department is one of the nation’s best, according to a consortium of civil rights groups, including the ACLU.
On Tuesday, the Leadership Conference in Washington released a policy scorecard on police body-worn cameras. It ranked 50 agencies, including three in Colorado, with the following criteria:
- Makes the department policy publicly and readily available
- Limits officer discretion on when to record
- Addresses personal privacy concerns
- Prohibits officer pre-report viewing
- Limits retention of footage
- Protects footage against tampering and misuse
- Makes footage available to individuals filing complaints
- Limits the use of biometric technologies
The Aurora Police Department received the group’s lowest marks for failing to make its written policy easy for the public to view. The Denver Police Department received mixed reviews.
Parker police spokesman Josh Hans said before officers hit the streets with about 75 mini-cameras and audio recorders, its chief, David King, not only met with officers about their concerns, but took feedback from community groups.
“It really helped round it out, give it that balance, so we were looking at all different angles to create a policy,” Hans said. “Everybody behaves better if they know they are being recorded. Whether it be police officers or members of the public. That's just one of the great benefits of this program.”
One of the aspects of the body camera program praised for its forward thinking was Parker’s policy that requires officers to verbalize the reason they are turning off their camera.
Denver police received positive feedback for allowing the public easy access to its written body camera policies, but received average or negative reviews on other categories.
The report doesn't like the fact Denver police does not specifically prohibit "tampering" of footage by officers.
Cmdr. Barbara Archer, who oversees Denver’s police body camera program, said the equipment does not allow for tampering by officers.
“They would have to smash it with a hammer, which creates a new set of problems for them,” Archer said. “We have a pretty strong policy.”
Archer said the department appreciates all feedback that can make its program better. She cited an example in which police in the first eight months revised a policy regarding privacy for juveniles at schools.
The Leadership Conference report blasted the Aurora Police Department for hiding its body camera policy from the public, giving it the lowest marks for transparency in the nation long with Detroit and Pittsburgh.
Aurora police released a statement Tuesday:
“Today was the first time we were made aware of the Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights scorecard on police body worn camera policies. Although our policy regarding body-worn cameras was not published on our webpage prior to the release of today’s study it has always been available to the public upon request. The APD Media Relations Unit never received a request for a copy of the policy from the authors of this study.
"Our body camera policy was drafted after review and research into national standards and practices that were being implemented across the nation. Recommendations from the following sources were used to develop our policy:
- Recommendations regarding body-worn camera policies in Colorado: Pursuant to House Bill 15-1285
- International Municipal Lawyer’s: A Model Act for Regulating the Use of Wearable Body Cameras by Law Enforcement
- International Association of Chiefs of Police Body Worn Camera Model Policy
- The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing Final Report
- Review of other large city body worn camera policies
"In the interest of transparency our policy regarding body worn cameras and had been posted to our web page at AuroraPolice.com. It can be located on the 'Annual and Public Reports' page.”