LAKEWOOD, Wash -- Saying the public is a lot nicer to them when new body mounted cameras are turned on, Lakewood Police say early results of a pilot program are promising.
They’re the latest local department to consider outfitting officers with cameras, joining Bremerton, Poulsbo and Seattle police departments in testing them.
Lakewood Officer Andy Hall is one of the three members of patrol who used them over the last month.
'It seems like I got yelled at or cursed at on a daily basis but as soon as I let them know they were being audio and video recorded they kind of tone down,” said Officer Hall.
It wasn’t just citizens who changed their behavior, he found himself moving to position the camera instead of focusing on his own safety, something he feels can be addressed with additional training.
Taser International makes two different kinds of cameras. One can be worn on the front of the uniform or the lapel. The other is called the Axon flex and can attach to safety glasses or a helmet using a magnet.
At the end of the day, officers upload the videos into the system. In just 30 days, the three who tested the cameras recorded more than 300 videos.
"I am definitely leaning towards it and I would like to work it out so that we would have that tool available to the officers,” said Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar who is preparing a presentation for the Lakewood City Council.
He is aware of the cameras limitations but believes they are the future. He points to the now famous touchdown catch by the Seahawks Golden Tate to win the Packers game as an example.
"They have high dollar cameras, they have 5 or 6 of them and you still can't really tell what happened in the play. and there's that concern, it gives you one particular angle but it may not be the be all end all of what transpired in that particular incident,” said Chief Farrar.
Taser is debuting new technology in January to make it easier for officers to record video during emergency responses.
"It will enable your camera to automatically turn on once your light bar is activated and will also allow other cameras around you that are in range to turn on as well when you are approaching a scene," said Sydney Siegmeth with Taser.
Lt. Chris Lawler who heads up the patrol division says he likes the way the department is approaching the controversial decision.
"We've looked at what some of the other departments are running into as far as public disclosure request, the privacy issues and things so I think we go through this kind of slow and deliberate and decide is this gonna be a good fit for Lakewood PD.” said Lt. Lawler.
A decision on whether to purchase the cameras could come before the end of the year.