Salem police department to implement bodycams

SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — After two years of planning, officers in the Salem Police Department will start wearing body cameras on February 13.

The cameras will be worn by officers on patrol and detectives working in the field.

“This technology is just another tool in that plan behind the idea of transparency and accountability,” said Salem Police Chief Trevor Womack.

It’s been a long road for the department to get these devices that started two years ago in 2021. Salem police said throughout that time, the department had to budget, work with stakeholders, select the vendors then test the cameras.

“That included testing in the field, during stressed conditions, low light conditions, and how well the equipment stays on the officer,” Chief Womack said.

When an officer goes out on patrol, they tap their cameras on during any incident they respond to where they believe there’s suspicion or probable cause of a crime or violation.

“After that, they would turn off their camera once they have separated from that incident, then they can immediately view the footage on their phone,” Deputy Chief Brandon Ditto said.

Officers will be able to see the footage, but cannot edit or delete the recording.

For the first 60 days of the program, officers will have a grace period if they forget to turn their body camera on. After that, they will be disciplined if they deliberately de-activate their cameras, Salem police said.

Patrol cars will also have cameras that will record video around the car and the custody area inside the vehicle. Salem police said that part of the process will be complete by the end of summer.

David Rheinholdt, the chair of the City of Salem Community Police Review Board, said logistical issues have caused the delays in the body camera program getting started, but said this is a step in the right direction.

“I think it’s a good thing for the city as a whole,” Rheinholdt said. “The officers I talked to are very happy about having body cameras and most of the citizens I’ve talked to are happy as well.”

Police body cameras at other departments

When it comes to other large departments in the area getting body cameras, Vancouver police said on Wednesday it anticipates launching the program later this month.

Police in Beaverton, Camas and Oregon State Police wear body cameras while on patrol.

Portland is the last major city in the U.S. where police don’t wear body cameras. The police department and city have been attempting to add body cameras for years, but the process has been a long one that’s repeatedly stalled. At last check, Portland police said they plan to start their program at the end of 2023.


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