SEE CHANGE FOR AURORA COPS: Police like using body cameras

Aurora cops say the cameras, which cost about $900 each, are especially popular with officers because they can quickly quash any bogus accusations of misconduct

AURORA | Motorists stopped by Aurora police officers should get ready for their close up. And in the coming months, that camera readiness should extend to anyone who interacts with police west of Interstate 225, and one day, patrol officers across Aurora.

Already, 47 officers — the bulk of them in the traffic section and on the motorcycle team — are wearing cameras on their uniforms to record nearly every interaction between themselves and the public. The Aurora City Council’s 2015 budget request includes more than $217,000 to expand the program to 155 officers in District No. 1, mostly north Aurora, with the goal of expanding the program to 440 officers in the coming years.

Aurora police Lt. Dan Mark, who oversees the body camera program, said since the department first deployed the cameras in 2011, they have proven to be popular with police. The cameras are so popular with officers, Mark said, that when the devices were upgraded and the officers went without them for a couple days, he received several calls from officers wanting to know when they would get their cameras back.

Mark said the cameras, which cost about $900 each, are especially popular with officers because they can quickly quash any bogus accusations of misconduct.

The cameras are about the size of a pager and clip on to the center of the officer’s uniform shirt. Officers can turn the cameras — which record audio and video — on and off by flipping a switch on the front.

“The functionality of it is really easy,” he said.

Cop Cams

Officer Ed Nolte's VIEVU camera is part of his uniform that he dons before going out on patrol, Sept. 16 at the Aurora Police Headquarters. The city’s 2015 budget calls for outfitting 440 police officers with body-worn cameras. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Cop Cams

Officer Ed Nolte's VIEVU camera is part of his uniform that he dons before going out on patrol, Sept. 16 at the Aurora Police Headquarters. The city’s 2015 budget calls for outfitting 440 police officers with body-worn cameras. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Cop Cams

Officer Ed Nolte's VIEVU camera is part of his uniform that he dons before going out on patrol, Sept. 16 at the Aurora Police Headquarters. The city’s 2015 budget calls for outfitting 440 police officers with body-worn cameras. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Cop Cams

Officer Ed Nolte's VIEVU camera is part of his uniform that he dons before going out on patrol, Sept. 16 at the Aurora Police Headquarters. The city’s 2015 budget calls for outfitting 440 police officers with body-worn cameras. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Cop Cams

Officer Ed Nolte's VIEVU camera is part of his uniform that he dons before going out on patrol, Sept. 16 at the Aurora Police Headquarters. The city’s 2015 budget calls for outfitting 440 police officers with body-worn cameras. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Cop Cams

Officer Ed Nolte's VIEVU camera is part of his uniform that he dons before going out on patrol, Sept. 16 at the Aurora Police Headquarters. The city’s 2015 budget calls for outfitting 440 police officers with body-worn cameras. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Cop Cams

Officer Ed Nolte's VIEVU camera is part of his uniform that he dons before going out on patrol, Sept. 16 at the Aurora Police Headquarters. The city’s 2015 budget calls for outfitting 440 police officers with body-worn cameras. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

The video is stored on the camera and downloaded at the end of a shift on one of just a handful of department computers authorized to connect to them, Mark said. That safeguard, along with a video watermark embedded on the footage and a system that tracks who has downloaded and viewed the video, is aimed at making sure the video isn’t tampered with.

Officers can review the footage from their cameras, but not other officers’ before they file police reports, Mark said, and their supervisors have access, too. Witnesses and suspects do not have access to the video, he said.

As a policy, the department won’t release the video without an open records request and subsequent ruling from city attorneys, he said.

The cameras are not always running, but Mark said officers are supposed to turn the camera on at the start of any interaction with the public with just a few exceptions. Those exceptions include interviews with victims who might not feel comfortable with being recorded, he said. Officers need to be able to articulate a specific reason for turning the camera off when they deal with the public, he said.

Mark said the devices don’t run all of the time for a few reasons. For one, officers need some privacy if they need to use the restroom. And, if the device was recording for an entire shift, storing the hours upon hours of video would prove difficult and expensive. Under the current setup, Mark said video is stored for 90 days for most interactions with the public. In some investigations, the video is stored until the statute of limitations on the crime in question runs out, then it deletes automatically.

The devices have made headlines in recent weeks in light of the fatal shooting of black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white police officer. In that case, witnesses have said Brown — who was unarmed — had his hands up when officer Darren Wilson shot him to death. Advocates for body-worn cameras have said the devices would provide clear evidence in controversial police shootings.

Other departments, including Denver police, have announced plans in recent months to expand their use of the devices, too.

The American Civil Liberties Union has advocated for more body-worn cameras on police officers since long before the uproar in Ferguson.

Denise Maes, Public Policy Director for ACLU of Colorado, said the devices are valuable not just for citizens, but for the police, too.

“I think it is clear that not only do they serve the role of accountability and oversight, they also serve the role of clearing the police officers of baseless allegations of abuse,” she said.

Rules like Aurora has that require officers to have the cameras on except in very limited situations are important, she said, but they need to come with effective discipline for officers who break them.

“That is a requirement that should have some teeth with it,” she said.

Maes said it’s also important that police tell people they are being recorded and give citizens the chance to opt out if they don’t want to be recorded.

While Mark said Aurora officers are not required to tell people they are being recorded, the cameras are fairly easy to see and are located in the very center of an officer’s uniform shirt.

  • John

    I’m glad to see APD take the initiative. I hope this helps them quash any bogus claims and helps them train on situations that could have gone better. For example if they would have had footage from the theater shooting, officers from around the country could use that for training purposes.

    In some cities officers have been known to turn off their cameras when they should be running, I wonder if the APD has any way to prevent that.

    Overall I hope this helps improve the relationship between the police and those they protect.

  • Beth

    I don’t think there should be an option for the citizen to opt out. Maybe they want to opt out so that they can make a false allegation. That doesn’t make sense to me. I understand officers and agree with the idea that the cameras can be turned off when officers are not on a call, so they can go to the restroom, or talk with a coworker, or eat their lunch with some privacy. But I think if they’re going to be implemented, they should be on every call.

    • Kahunas Sentinel

      Dah Beth, ……Our officers shouldn’t even be wearing them this will distract a situation that could risk their life and if so, I will sue.

      • Christie

        If our taxes go for paying for these video-audio recording devices for the police, then we – the people, need adequate protection and to fulfill our role as a check and balance upon the executive – judicial branch of the government, and should be issued, via our government, similar/equal devices to record and video tape the police.
        The people’s ability to record and video-tape the police is now under attack already by police and courts. Our rights to do this, at our expense/cost and burden can be done completely away with in the future and thus render our civil and religious rights even more tyrannically removed.
        Personally, I believe that police having the right to videotape people just for so called “mere suspicion” is a violation of our civil rights and freedom. Our rights are already largely gone and with them our freedom.

        • Christie

          Also, their are states (USA) that allow people to opt out of getting their photos taken for their driver’s licences. This is for the protection of religious and civil rights. I personally applaud those states and believe that people should have the right not to have their photo (s) taken. The boundaries of our own sovereign privacy and bodily integrity are being transgressed like never before. Demands for iris scans, forced drugging, fingerprints, and on and on in order to comply with the rulers and their monetary constrains, including receiving the basics for life are already sins/violations against our religious and civil rights.

    • Kahunas Sentinel

      Really Beth, let them figure out how they will use the restroom……really? Your not very bright!!

  • esb

    Sea change (transformation), an idiom for broad transformation drawn from a phrase in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, not “See Change”.

    • Aldo Elmnight

      You are hereby banished from AuroraSentinel.com for life. We don’t need your kind here.

  • Kahunas Sentinel

    Our Officers should not even be wearing these cameras it will distract or can distract a bad situation to where it could lose their life over a device and if so, I will sue. And, I am a young white women. Maybe in the future, we will have true police robots with kick ass to destroy ran by the government and then all you police haters babies will really be crying about policing.

  • Kahunas Sentinel

    All you cry babies around our policing department to wear camera’s will be you all paying for it, so hope your happy now. Smile your in camera so act like a good citizen, or you still go to jail it’s a lose lose situation, you dum dums!