An example of a police body camera. COURTESY PHOTO, Axon

An example of a police body camera. COURTESY PHOTO, Axon

Kent Police to start up body-worn cameras pilot program

10 officers to wear devices beginning Dec. 21

Kent Police will start a pilot program Dec. 21 for body-worn cameras on 10 officers.

Seven Axon body-worn cameras will be worn by patrol officers and one each by a traffic officer, a Special Operations Unit officer and a patrol sergeant.

“The concept of body-worn cameras for our officers was a priority for Mayor Dana Ralph and through her commitment we have reached implementation,” said Police Chief Rafael Padilla in a Kent Police Facebook page post Thursday. “We have shared our desire and anticipation for this program with the community and now we can put it into motion.”

Padilla said he anticipates the pilot program will show that body-worn cameras will decrease the use of force, reduce false complaints, improve behavior on both sides of the badge, enhance public trust, decrease litigation and expedite pleas and associated cost savings.

The pilot program is expected to run for three to six months, Padilla said earlier this year. Police staff worked with Axon and the Kent Police Officers Association (union) to develop policies for the program.

Ralph announced in a press release during her mayoral campaign in 2017 that she would propose in 2018 to outfit officers with body cameras. Padilla said at a City Council Public Safety Meeting in August that the pilot program would start in October, but development of the project took a couple of months longer than initially anticipated.

Arizona-based Axon, which also has an office in Seattle, will provide the cameras and equipment to Kent for free during the pilot program. The company contracts with nearly 50 police forces in major cities to provide body cameras, the largest purchase being 7,545 cameras by the Los Angeles Police Department, according to the Axon website.

Padilla said the force chose Axon because of the cameras low-light HD capabilities, they capture 143 degree field of vision, have up to 70 hours of recording time and a 12-hour battery life. The digital evidence from the cameras is tightly secured when downloaded onto an encrypted docking station and cloud on evidence.com. All activity can be tracked by user ID and can record the date, time and number of views, and what footage was redacted.

Tukwila Police ran a pilot program in 2016 before outfitting all officers with the cameras. The Tukwila City Council in 2017 approved a $550,000, five-year contract with Axon to provide 50 body cameras, 29 dash cameras and 50 Taser guns to its police force.

The Kent City Council recently approved using funds from a new red-light camera program starting next year to fund the body-worn cameras for the entire force, which includes more than 150 officers.

A Kent Police Department study in 2017 estimated it would cost $250,000 to start up a body camera program and about $110,000 per year in ongoing costs. Hiring staff to redact information that cannot be disclosed to the public would cost an estimated $370,000 per year.

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