Feb. 23, 2015

Kyle Guthrie
kguthri2@uccs.edu

Events like the Michael Brown shooting and Eric Garner’s death have led to some Americans calling for new regulations that would require police departments to implement a personal camera system for officers.

These personal cameras, similar to GoPro’s, would be worn by officers while on duty in order to allow the department to conduct a closer surveillance on their officers. Proponents say that this is necessary to better conduct accountability for officers; opponents say that such measures would be overreaching for the occupation.

But while the debate rages on over the implementation and use of such cameras, the UCCS Police Department has been using the system for over two years.

In 2012, UCCS implemented a personal “On-Call Camera System” that records the officer’s point of view while on-call. The officers then upload the footage to a collection point where it is retained for 60 days unless it is needed for a criminal case.

Brian McPike, executive director of Public Safety, believes that the cameras are a step in the right direction.

“I think this is a good step in order to both protect the officers as well as the students, staff and faculty,” McPike said. “They are a very effective tool in helping to ensure the safety of our entire campus.”

The cameras are about the size of a small fist, and can attach to the officer’s uniforms in various areas. They are activated once the officers respond to a call for service.

A lockout feature ensures that only administrators have access to the footage.

Lieutenant Marc Pino, who is in charge of investigations, is also the officer in charge for the personal camera system. He said that the officers of his department were on board with the proposed camera plan.

“When we were looking into them, we asked the officers what their thoughts were on them, and we had them testing them out in the field to see if they were something they would use,” Pino said. “The feedback we got on it was that it was very useful, and that they liked it, so we moved forward with purchasing them.”

Pino also said that there was no pressure on the department to move forward with the plan, and that this was the choice of the officers themselves.

“We never received any pressure,” he said. “We had some money at the end of the year, and a rep told us about a new body camera system that was being developed. We employed them, researched the best practices for video retention, created a policy and put them out.”

The cameras have provided the officers with some unexpected, but welcome side effects, said Pino.

“Sometimes a video will get posted online of a police altercation, but they’ll edit it to make it look much worse than it actually is,” Pino said. “What we are now able to do is have the option to say ‘yeah, that’s the video that was shown, but this is what happened from our perspective.’”

Pino said the footage can be reviewed to make more detailed report, and in one case, help a medical emergency victim identify a seizure disorder.