ANALYSIS: Portland Copwatch position on Body Cameras
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:14:07
(11/15, updated 2/19)
From: Portland Copwatch
To: Chief Larry O'Dea
Cc: City Council-COCL-COAB-CRC-media-and-allies
Subject: Portland Copwatch recommendations for police Body Camera policies
(a project of Peace and Justice Works)
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065 (office)
(503) 321-5120 (incident report line)
Proposed Portland Police Bureau Policies for Body Cameras
from Portland Copwatch
November 23, 2015
Note: Portland Copwatch (PCW) has remained neutral on the issue of body
cameras because we believe there are too many unanswered questions and
not enough research on their effects on privacy and Miranda rights. PCW
is concerned the tapes will be used more to support convictions than to
prove misconduct, and we don't have enough time to teach all 1 million
people in the Portland metro area about their right to remain silent.
We have also expressed many concerns including the financial incentives
of manufacturers "to make a fortune selling cameras for individual
Many of our colleagues in the police accountability movement nationwide
oppose the use of body cameras, including We Copwatch, Stop LAPD Spying,
and Communities United Against Police Brutality. *-3
Since it appears the PPB is going to acquire the cameras regardless of
concerns and objections, we offer the below specific recommendations,
echoing and expanding on those proposed by the AMA Coalition for Justice
and Police Reform.
1--Before acquiring cameras and setting policy, the PPB should conduct a
comprehensive best practices study and present it to the community for
further feedback. An advisory body such as the Citizen Review Committee
should be kept up to date on the implementation of the cameras and
2--The community has to be involved in setting any rules if the Bureau
decides to get cameras. The Bureau must publish responses to community
recommendations that are not adopted.
3--As many of the policies as possible should be included in an
ordinance or resolution passed by City Council to improved oversight,
community input, and consistency.
4--The City must find a system that ensures secure access and integrity
of the footage. This may involved a third party Oregon company, which
can provide affidavits regarding the chain of custody.
5--The Bureau must provide timely access to footage to persons who are
the subject of force. If there are criminal charges, the release should
come no later than the time of arraignment. If there are not criminal
charges, the release should be immediate upon the request of the
6--If civilian subjects who are in the video ok its being released, the
footage should be publicly released. To the extent possible under state
law, the images should not be blurred out of those civilians, including
the subjects, who have given release permission. The officers' faces
should never be blurred out.
7--State law requires that cameras be turned on upon reasonable
suspicion of criminal activity. We do not support any efforts to find
loopholes to this policy that allow the cameras to be shut off. However,
policy may be needed to address concerns of rape/abuse victims and
others based on safety/privacy concerns. PCW does not have suggestions
at this time.
8--PPB policy should require officers to turn cameras on before
interacting with any community member if the purpose is to gather
information, even in an absence of reasonable suspicion.
9--There must be increasing, structured disciplinary measures depending
on the seriousness of violations, including failing to record
interactions or turning cameras off during contact.
10--Officers should not be allowed to review the footage before giving
statements/writing reports so that they don't use the footage to change
11--Police must inform community members that they are being recorded,
and inform them of their rights to remain silent, the right not make
incriminating statements, and the right to walk away if applicable.
12--Police cannot use footage to gather data on people's lawful activity
in violation of state law (ORS
13--As per state law, PPB shall not tie the video to facial recognition
software to pull up information on people when they have no suspicion of
criminal conduct. Body cameras should also not be linked to other
databases such as license plate databases.
14--Footage should primarily
be used to hold police accountable for
officer misconduct/ criminal activity and, when the subject has given a
release, to improve training and policy.
15--Footage should not be used to prosecute community members for minor
misdemeanors or infractions; and footage should not be used to
retroactively go back and find minor crimes to prosecute.
Thank you and we look forward to your reply.
and other members of Portland Copwatch
*-1 From People's Police Report #64 (January 2015)
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*-4 Depending on technical ability to do so.
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*-5 We had debate here about whether to say footage should "only" be
used to hold officers accountable. That is our preferred overall policy
should the cameras be adopted. However, as that is an unlikely scenario
we have included these many other recommendations for consideration as
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Portland Copwatch home page
Peace and Justice
Works home page
Posted July 6, 2021