Tumwater Police seeking funding for body cameras

According to the presentation, a decrease in citizen injuries was a consistent result


Tumwater Police Department is looking to secure funding from the city to implement the usage of body-worn cameras.

Commander Jay Mason discussed this proposal with the Tumwater Public Health and Safety Committee on Tuesday, April 9, in preparation for the city’s biennial budget.

Mason presented a table showing that the estimated annual cost of using body cameras would be $534,771. Most of this amount will be for personnel costs, such as $200,122, which would go towards a sergeant role to supervise the usage of cameras.

The commander explained that they currently do not have the capacity to supervise the program. He informed the committee that the handling of footage from body-worn cameras could be taxing to the department’s administrative staff as they have to redact portions of videos due to privacy laws.

“If you have a 30-minute video, you have to sit and watch it for 30 minutes to make sure the redaction is done,” Mason said, adding that they may have multiple cameras at a scene, which increases the amount of work needed.

The city currently uses in-car cameras. To comply with policies for handling video footage, Mason said that they have one lieutenant in charge of the equipment, which will not be enough if the department starts using body cameras.

“We don’t have the supervision capacity to run a program like this at the high level that we would want to and quite honestly, our community would require out of us within our current capacity, so that’s why we added a sergeant position,” Mason said.

The requested budget also includes $107,856 for an IT specialist, $86,369 for a police service specialist, and $81,480, described as a 2% anticipated base pay increase as required by the Tumwater Police Guild for the usage of body cameras.

Outside personnel costs, the actual cost of the cameras is estimated at $54,145 per year, while the department also needs $4,800 to obtain a license for video redaction software.

Outside these operational expenses, the department is also anticipating one-time costs of $70,000 to acquire data switches, wiring for charging stations, and vests designed for body cameras.

Mason acknowledged that there are yet-unknown costs if the city starts using body cameras such as additional office space for the new personnel, a records supervisor, and additional cloud storage.

Impact of body cameras

Dr. Oliver Bowers, the department’s management analyst, also spoke about the impact of body cameras on officers and the public. He stated that, in general, the use of body cameras improves public perception of a police department’s transparency, but it depends on how local policies affect the availability of video footage.

The actual impact of using body cameras is inconsistent across different police departments, according to Bowers, who cited research by the National Institute of Justice.

As an example, some police departments reported a significant increase in the use of force when using body cameras; others reported the opposite, while others saw no significant impact.

Citizen complaints and officer proactivity either saw a significant decrease or no impact, while arrests and citations saw either a significant increase or no impact.

A decrease in citizen injuries was the only consistent result, according to Bower’s presentation.

“There is no universal metric for BWC (body-worn camera) success, so entering into body-worn cameras, the department cannot go in saying our goal here is to, for example, reduce incidences of use of force because there is no context where that actually kind of is categorical. How and whether these things change is entirely dependent on the community,” Bowers added.

In terms of the camera’s impact on police officers, Bowers said that research has shown that body cameras substantially increase stress and anxiety for officers, which leads to higher rates of burnout.

“The pressure that goes along with wearing [a] body-worn camera for the entirety of their shift and knowing that every interaction will be recorded, everything that’s spoken will be there. Even if nothing goes wrong, just the fact that it is there permanently creates this stress and mental anguish,” Bowers said.

He added that there are also instances when the public may take video footage out of context, especially in terms of how officers follow police protocol.


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