Auburn City Council discusses body-worn cameras for police

Auburn City Council discussed outfitting Auburn Police with body-worn cameras among other new technologies during its study session on July 12.

Body-worn cameras are already in use by several surrounding police departments, including Kent, Seattle and Tacoma.

Two representatives from Axon – the company that supplies Tasers and body cameras to police across the country – presented the company’s “officer safety plan” to the board during the study session.

The plan includes the latest versions of Axon’s Taser, body and car cameras, as well as virtual reality training and cloud storage for evidence. The plan would cost around $ 2.4 million over five years, Axon’s Allen Sliper said in the study session.

Board members expressed concerns about the effectiveness of some of the devices offered by Axon.

“Body cameras have been controversial in some ways. Sometimes they are considered very successful, other times considered less successful, ”said Deputy Mayor Claude DaCorsi. “I’m just curious about the national success rate when it comes to the use of body cameras and the extent to which they are accepted by officers.”

Sliper said the number one indicator of the success of body cameras is a reduction in complaints against officers, especially fewer false charges against police officers.

“Automatically people aren’t going to lay charges and say something happened that didn’t happen because now they know there’s a video involved,” Sliper said.

A study published by George Mason University found that the public and officers generally support body cameras because police believe the cameras will protect them from the public and vice versa.

Body cameras may not actually change the behavior of officers or citizens, according to the same study. The study found that the use of body cameras can reduce the number of complaints filed against officers. According to the study, body cameras did not always have an impact on the use of force by officers.

One of the more futuristic devices offered in Axon’s agent safety plan is the virtual reality (VR) headset and “community engagement training”. Axon markets its virtual reality system as a way for police departments to train officers to deal with people with schizophrenia, dementia or other mental illnesses. The agents would use the VR headset to have conversations with a person generated by artificial intelligence.

Another aspect of Axon’s agent security plan is to equip agents with the last Tasers. Tasers are less lethal weapons that shoot a two-pronged person and deliver an electric shock in an attempt to overpower the person.

Council member James Jeyaraj was concerned about the number of people who have died after being shocked by Axon’s Taser. Jeyaraj noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has left many people with permanent heart problems.

Axon representative James Hillary said he should do more research, but suggested that no one had been killed directly by a tasers.

“From a Taser deployment I would say zero, but from other circumstances there is definitely a number,” Hillary said.

A Reuters report found that there were more than 1,000 cases in the United States where a person died after being shocked by a Taser. Autopsy results indicated that Taser was the cause or contributing factor in 153 of these deaths.

Axon also provides law enforcement agencies with a legal team to defend an officer in cases involving a Taser, Hillary said.

The board will consider whether to move forward with equipping Auburn Police with body cameras and the Officer Safety Plan.

However, the Washington state legislature recently passed SHB 1223, which will require law enforcement officers to record audio and video of most interrogations starting January 1, 2022. Thus, d One way or another, Auburn Police will likely be equipped with body-worn cameras. in the near future.

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