In the ongoing effort to introduce body cameras to the Spokane Police force, officials say 220 chest-mounted cameras have arrived and will likely start rolling out by September as the department finalizes its policies and tests a new video storage network.
Tim Schwering, director of SPD Professional Oversight, this afternoon provided an update to Spokane City Council members, explaining the department had changed its previous plan to use sunglasses-mounted cameras — opting instead for a simpler model worn on an officer’s chest.
“We’re going to go with the chest-mounted version,” he says. “That’s going to be just, frankly, more seamless.”
The new camera model, Taser’s Axon Body, appears about the size and shape of a deck of cards. While officials had previously preferred the field of view on the glasses-mounted camera, Schwering says officer testing showed the chest model to be more comfortable and easier to use.
A written update on the process lists the purchase of 220 body cams, which Taser lists at $299 each. Police officials also purchased 37 camera docks for recharging and depositing footage with two years of maintenance support. They also ordered three years of video data storage through Taser’s Evidence.com network.
Taser reports the black chest-mounted cameras capture a 130-degree view. They also weigh about 3.5 ounces, can record up to 13 hours of video and run about 12 hours on one battery charge.
Schwering says the department had 18 patrol officers conduct initial field testing on the cameras in late 2012, using the cameras during a number of scenarios, including foot pursuits, traffic stops, assaultive suspects and a suspect with a gun.
He expected about 17 officers to participate in a new round of field testing this month, utilizing the department’s newly written policy on how and when to use the cameras. Police officials would not yet release the department’s new policy, saying it remains in draft form.
The department has also started testing its bandwidth to ensure it can handle the new video storage traffic from the cameras.
City council members had requested an update on the department’s progress toward introducing the cameras after the city approved funding in April of 2013.
Schwering says he expects SPD officers to start wearing the cameras by September as they get officers trained on the new technology.
“At the latest September,” Schwering says, “I’m hoping we can get it out a little sooner.”
Here's a promotional video from Taser outlining some features of the cameras: