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Committee OKs police body camera policy
Still must pass full board
Pirtle, Tim mug.jpg

A policy governing the use of body cameras by city police officers is on its way to the McMinnville Board of Mayor and Aldermen for final approval. 

“We’re satisfied with it,” said McMinnville Police Department Chief Bryan Denton, who voiced support for the use of in-car video and body-worn cameras to provide transparency and encourage officers to act like someone is watching. “MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) has looked at it and they’re good with it.”

The information was presented to members of the city’s Safety Committee. 

City attorney Tim Pirtle voiced concerns for the potential liability and cost of video storage to the city when the policy was first discussed.

“If you recall I had a number of questions and concerns,” said Pirtle. “Those concerns have been totally eliminated. I’m convinced that they’ve done a great job with due diligence and I have no questions and no qualms.”

Denton said similar policies were reviewed from other departments across the state and that information was used to generate this policy.

The policy, in general, states that officers will be issued a camera at the beginning of their shift and required to turn it in when their shift concludes. Devices can be manually activated as well as automatically activated. 

Officers shall activate their body cameras when responding to all calls for service immediately after a call has been acknowledged and during all law enforcement-related encounters and activities that occur while the officer is on duty.

Calls that require activation: All dispatched calls for service, all vehicle stops, DUI investigations including field sobriety tests, suspicious vehicles, person stops, use of force situations, detentions/ arrests and transport, search of persons, high-risk encounters, tactical activities, search warrants of structures and buildings, foot pursuits, K9 searches, during the inventorying of seized money or any high-value property, any citizen contact that becomes confrontational, and when any citizen is transported to any location.

When recording victims and witnesses in sensitive situations such as sexual assault cases, in hospitals or other medical or psychiatric facilities, officers shall be careful to avoid, when possible, recording persons in states of undress.

If an officer fails to activate the device, fails to record the entire contact, or interrupts the recording, the office shall document in the related offense report as to why a recording was not made, interrupted, or was terminated. 

An officer must receive permission from a supervisor before turning a body camera off during a time when it should be activated. Denton said that request and subsequent decision must be documented by the supervisor. 

The policy also outlines exceptions to the policy, times when recording is prohibited, supervisor responsibilities, how recordings are to be handled, and how violations of the policy will be handled by the department. 

Car video cameras and body-worn cameras will be phased in gradually.

“As we buy vehicles, they will be equipped with cameras,” said Denton. “They are actually used in combination with body cameras. You’re actually getting both with this system.”

The department has eight body cameras.

Committee members unanimously approved the policy, which must be sent to the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen for final approval.