Tigard Council Approves Police Body Cameras

This images shows the view from a Tigard Police motorcycle officer’s hemet-mounted body camera as he narrowly misses a motorist who turned too closely in front of him. This summer all the department’s officers will be outfitted with body cameras following City Council approval of their purchase last month. (Screenshot/March 22 Public Safety Advisory Board Virtual Meeting)

Tigard Police will be expanding its use of body worn cameras to include all of its sworn officers by no later than this summer. 

The Tigard City Council approved a five-year, $1.46 million contract last month with Axon Enterprises to provide cameras, maintenance and support for the police department. It is the first council action taken on a recommendation from the City’s Public Safety Advisory Board, which was created last fall to review police policies. 

The move comes on top of council approval of the purchase of new in-car camera systems for the department’s patrol vehicles, updated cloud storage for the footage and new less-lethal Taser weapons for officers.

“This is nothing new for us,” Sgt. Leigh Erickson said at the council’s April 13 meeting. “All of the things we’re considering expanding or updating we’re using.” 

Currently, nine Tigard officers regularly use body cameras, including motorcycle officers, K9 officers and school resource officers. Non-sworn community service officers also use body cameras. Starting this summer, however, all Tigard officers will be equipped with the latest Axon Body 3 model cameras, while patrol vehicles will be upgraded to use Axon dash cameras that allow integration of footage from body cameras for use as evidence. 

“There has been an emphasis on body worn cameras at all levels and an expectation from the public that we wear them,” Erickson said. “There’s a lot of support for them out there.” 

The latest models, he added, allow supervisors or those with access to remotely switch on and view footage from officers’ body cameras or track their location using GPS technology. The body cameras can be activated manually by officers, or automatically by sensors tripped when an officer draws a firearm or Taser from its holster. 

Footage from multiple cameras can also be joined up using software for a cleaner presentation of evidence. 

The Public Safety Advisory Board reviewed the technology in February and made a formal recommendation to the City Council supporting its purchase. 

While the overall contract with Axon is worth $1.46 million, much of that will be paid for through the existing police budget. Around $165,000 in additional funding annually will be required over the course of the five-year contract to cover the rest of the cost. 

“I think it’s extremely important in this day and age of policing,” Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine said. “Transparency and accountability to our community is paramount and updating our technology is critical.”