Tigard Police to Expand Body Camera Program

This is just one example of the perspective provide by body worn cameras that are currently used by some members of the Tigard Police Department. The department plans to issue the devices to all officers later this year, following a March 22 recommendation from the City’s Public Safety Advisory Board. (PUBLIC SAFETY ADVISORY BOARD ZOOM MEETING SCREENSHOT)

Tigard’s Public Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) has formally endorsed equipping all sworn officers in the Tigard Police Department with new body-worn cameras, as well as replacing the outdated dash cameras used in patrol vehicles. 

The endorsement is the first formal recommendation made by the new advisory board, which was formed last year as part of the City’s response to the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed. Tigard Police currently equips motorcycle officers, K9 officers, school resource officers and community service officers with body cameras. But the new policy would see every officer in the department utilize the latest in camera technology, including the ability for cameras to automatically start recording any time an officer draws a taser or firearm from its holster. All footage captured by the new cameras would automatically upload to cloud accounts, where it could not be deleted or altered.

“We heard especially large and wide from the community, after the incident with George Floyd, a demand for body worn cameras within the Tigard Police Department,” Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine said at the PSAB’s March 22 meeting. 

McAlpine said she has already been working with Tigard City Manager Steve Rymer to include funding for the camera program in a third-quarter supplemental budget request that will go before the City Council in April. She estimated the new equipment and cloud storage for camera footage would cost around $284,000 annually. 

Tigard Police Officer Nick Nunn, who heads the Tigard Police Officers Association, the department’s union, told the PSAB that the department has already experienced success with existing cameras, both body-worn and in-vehicle, and added the department’s officers are actually in favor of expanding the program. 

“As an association we’re not against body cameras,” Nunn said. “For the full 15 years I’ve been here, we’ve used the in-car video, so we’re used to being recorded. Nowadays, I carry a body camera, but not only am I expecting – I’m recording any time I’m on a call – we’re expecting others to be recording, too. So, it doesn’t bother us at all.” 

McAlpine said this is not always the case. 

“Unlike some of the other agencies, to include my former agency of Tacoma, the union is not fighting this, which is huge,” she said. “A lot of agencies have to overcome this hurdle. We have had this system in place and they are actually asking for it.” 

Sgt. Leigh Erickson noted that Tigard’s use of body cameras has already resulted in better evidence collection and better interactions with the public, not to mention improved training opportunities for police. National studies also reflect these findings, he added.

“We’ve had some success with the current body-worn camera systems that we have out there,” he said.

Other local agencies using body cameras include Beaverton, Hillsboro and Sherwood, along with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police. Notably, the state’s largest police agency, the Portland Police Bureau, does not use this technology. 

The PSAB will further examine department policy around the use of cameras during upcoming meetings. 

“One of the things that is concerning to me, speaking from my personal experiences with the department, is having an officer say my equipment was faulty, but upon further examination there was nothing wrong with the equipment,” said PSAB Chair Jimmy Brown. “It was that the officer chose not to activate the dash cam, and only through discovery did we figure that particular piece out. So, I’m definitely concerned about the policy piece that is in place.”