KENT, Wash. – The Kent Police Department will begin a pilot program to outfit its officers with body cameras this fall.
The move has been years in the making, and thanks to an aggressive goal by the mayor, the body camera pilot program will roll out in October.
“If you look at this from a law enforcement perspective, studies have consistently shown it increases officer safety because violence on officers seems to go down and complaints on officers seem to go down,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said confidently.
Kent Police Assistant Chief Jarod Kasner says the goal is to have the entire force outfitted with their own cameras by spring.
“[The cameras] will automatically upload to the system of retention, and we can go in there and look at and retrieve the video,” Kasner described while giving us a demo.
Chief Padilla is excited about the cameras' ability to "enhance" their investigation prowess and their ability to "improve public trust."
“We can be more transparent. We can show, we can listen and we will. So we can respond quicker to questions that come in. Or if we have something that doesn’t go the way we want it to we can say, 'Hey, this happened and this is how we’re going to fix it,'" Chief Padilla added.
A quick survey of folks at a recent community police seminar shows residents are overwhelmingly supportive.
“They are huge story tellers. They help the police when people lie about them and it helps with putting together the story,” Kent resident Marcy Leikam said.
“We know that not everybody’s perfect, not everybody goes by the book and does what they’re supposed to, but I think that’s the exception to the rule, and I think it would be good for everybody to see exactly what they saw,” Kent resident Aimee Hytry added.
Residents are in. What about the officers?
“I think the general feel is that most officers are looking forward to wearing them. I think there’s reasonable concern to how can this be misconstrued or privacy concerns. When I take a break what does that look like? But overall I think there’s a positive feel,” Chief Padilla said. “We see this as an opportunity that’s going to be a win-win for everyone.”
The pilot program will last three to six months. While that might seem like a long time, the chief says it’s an intensive process with a lot of moving parts. It’s important to work out the kinks, create policy and protocol so the entire operation will run smoothly.