Camas police to get body-worn cameras

Officers will record interrogations; could move to full-time use in future

The Camas Police Department is getting body-worn cameras.

And while the officers will initially use the cameras to fulfill a new state law requiring audio and visual recordings of all juvenile and some adult interrogations beginning Jan. 1, 2022, Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey said the local police department also has discussed wearing the cameras full-time.

“Our Clark County prosecutor … has encouraged all law enforcement agencies to embrace body-worn cameras for police officers to provide a higher level of transparency and increase trust in law enforcement and criminal justice,” Lackey told Camas City Council members in October. “Although Camas police need a body-worn camera platform immediately for the purposes of achieving compliance with the new (state police) reform law, it makes sense to purchase the right device that will allow for a complete body-worn camera program, once that is implemented at a later date.”

Lackey said the city will still need to negotiate a full-time body-worn camera program with its police union and go through “several procedural steps,” but that officers will be ready to comply with the state’s new interrogation-recording law once the city receives its new AXON body-worn cameras.

The city council approved a five-year, $311,168 contract with AXON at its Oct. 18 meeting.

The contract will outfit every Camas police officer with an AXON body-worn camera, redaction software for public records requests and data-storage services, Lackey said.

The new body-worn cameras also come with tasers — electroshock weapons used to temporarily impair a person — that will trigger the camera when deployed.

The AXON body-worn cameras is the only (one) on the market that includes a feature that activates the camera when the officer deploys (their taser),” Lackey said, noting that the recording will capture video leading up to the deployment of the electroshock weapon and provide a complete recording of the incident.

The city’s police department normally spends around $10,000 a year on its AXON taser program, Lackey added.

“We could reduce our small tools budget by about $10,000 a year if this new agreement is executed, providing a total savings of around $50,000 from that line item,” Lackey told city council members in October. “That means the difference between what we are already spending and the new purchase agreement is about $261,000 over the five-year period.”

The new contract will supply the Camas Police Department with 30 body-worn camera-taser bundles. Lackey said police must have a body-worn camera interrogation recording and data storage policy and training in place by Dec. 31, to meet the requirements of the new state law.

“We will hopefully get (the new body-worn cameras) around Thanksgiving,” Lackey told council members last month. “And our IT department is already gearing up for the data transfer we’ll need … Then we will schedule with (AXON) to do training. We’re on a very tight timeline, but it looks like it’s doable.”

Lackey added that the body-worn cameras will be available to officers for more than just the required interrogations.

“They will be available all the time. Some (officers) may choose to wear them or keep them in their duty bag,” Lackey said. “When we do negotiate with the union for a full body-worn program, the officers would be required to wear them.”