AURORA | Body cameras are working and there need to be even more of them for Aurora’s police officers, said Interim Police Chief Terry Jones at a City Council Public Safety Committee meeting Feb. 3
“The chiefs are somewhat split in Colorado and in the metro area on bodyworn cameras because there’s some ancillary issues that are attached to it that have to do with public records,” he said. “Some departments are shying away from it a bit. In the near future, we believe we’re going to be enacting more of these. We’ve had a pretty successful rate thus far.”
Jones said that 49 officers—the bulk of them in the traffic section and on the motorcycle team— are wearing them on their uniforms to record nearly every interaction between themselves and the public.
“We’ve had great success with the traffic officers. As soon as they’re on the traffic stop, they’re flipping up the on-off switch and recording the event,” he said.
He said APD’s goal is to get most of the department body cameras for when officers are in uniform.
This year, the APD is expanding the program to 160 officers in District No. 1, mostly north Aurora, with the goal of expanding the program to 450 officers in the coming years.
The cameras are Vievu brand and are used by over 4,000 law enforcement agencies, according to data provided by the Aurora Police Department. They have 12 hours of recording time, 5 hours of battery life, and are waterproof.
About the size of a pager, the cameras clip on to the center of the officer’s uniform shirt and cost about $900 each.
Jones said Aurora’s policy with the camera is to store the video for 90 days for most interactions with the public. After that the data is purged unless the information could be used in a court case later down the road, he said.
He said it’s up to the officer to decide when it seems practical to keep the camera on or switch it off when on-duty.
He said the reason an officer could turn a camera off could range from being in immediate danger to having a confidential conversation with a citizen that is not part of an investigation. Under Aurora’s policy with the cameras, the officers are supposed to articulate the reason for shutting off the camera before doing so.
He added it was against APD policy to record conversations with people that have nothing to do with law enforcement.
“They will not be activated in locations where there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy. This would include restrooms, meeting rooms, that kind of thing, unless they’re in the full mode of investigation,” he said.
Police officials across the country say the cameras often bring on a new wave of civility during police-civilian interactions, as well as a reduction in complaints against police.
Aurora City Councilwoman Barb Cleland asked whether the department saw any issues with the fact that the cameras do not always follow where the officer is looking.
Aurora police Lt. Dan Mark, who oversees the body camera program, said the department is currently testing 20 cameras that officers wear as eyeglasses, but that in the past, officers haven not liked the cords attached to those models.
Cleland also asked what the department does with all of the data it downloads from the cameras.
“Right now, we’re hosting our own servers. We keep normal citizen contacts for 90 days. If a summons is issued, we keep it for 180 days. Then if it’s a criminal event, we keep it based on the statute of limitations for that event … for example, a homicide, you would keep it forever,” he said.
Mark said the city was looking into cloud-based servers as one solution.
“You’re paying a monthly fee but you don’t have to worry about storing the data. We’re comparing different plans on what it will take to store the data. With the limited number of cameras we’ve had, we’ve had no problem at all but that’s going to increase,” he said.
Mark said on average, an Aurora police officer uses around 9.5 gigabytes of data per month.