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Body cam maker, police union debate body cam use


On Friday, over 230 Cleveland police officers started wearing new Taser body cams. 

WKYC reported that the manufacturer of the cameras, Taser, has maintained it will help protect the officers in Cleveland’s Fourth District, but the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association think it is just another distraction in an already dangerous job.

Billy Doss, a Taser field service manager, said that studies have found excessive force incidents involving complaints against officers have greatly reduced in cities using body cams.  However, he said one of the greatest challenges is squashing the officers’ belief that the camera is a lookout device for Big Brother.

“It comes down to, you are the one that’s controlling the camera. You are starting and stopping it. You are the one that has access to it,” Doss said.

However, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis is concerned that the officers will be so busy trying to work the cameras that they might not see a dangerous situation unfold.

“There’s a lot of gray areas.  It’s about as clear as mud in some of the issues,” said Loomis. “They need to take care of business.  It’s a dangerous job.  It’s something we don’t need to worry about but we have to worry about.”

Taser stands by its cameras stating the model is user-friendly with easy to use controls and simple buttons.  The body cams uses lights and noises to let the officers know when it is off and on.

“Once they get used to it, it just kind of becomes second nature. In a couple weeks, they won’t even think about it,” Doss said.

At the end of their shift, officers dock their cameras in a secure room where the video is uploaded for storage.  According to Taser, the process will take no more than 20 minutes a day, yet there is concern from the union that the tagging of video after a busy day will take much more time.

In addition, officers are required to memorize 11 pages of the do’s and don’ts of when or when not to use the body cam.

The camera policies had no input from the union, which upset Loomis. “The unions didn’t, but the NAACP did. We would have like to been involved in the process. We weren’t allowed,” he said.

Doss said that other Cleveland police districts will be introduced to the body cams over the next few weeks.  He added that Fort Worth, Albuquerque, Los Angeles and San Francisco are or will be using this same Taser camera.

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