PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department is on track to have 750 officers (patrol officers and sergeants) equipped with body cameras by the end of this week.
On Thursday, about a dozen officers working the 42G shift, 2:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., hit the streets in south Phoenix with cameras on their chest.
"These are the ones we want [referring to the patrol officers] who on an everyday basis contact community members," said Sgt. Tommy Thompson, spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department.
The South Mountain precinct is the third of seven total precincts to get cameras. The goal is to have 1,200 officers with cameras by mid-August.
Sgt. Kevin Johnson is the one in charge of training every patrol officer and sergeant. He says the cameras are not automatic and need to be turned on and off by the officers. Each camera is assigned exclusively to each officer, and the video recorded will be uploaded onto a police server once the officer returns the camera to a loading dock.
"The goal with the cameras is that as the need arises, we have the data available and again it's photographic evidence and what it amounts to is you have another witness of what transpired," added Thompson.
So far, the three precincts with cameras include Maryvale/Estrella, Mountain View, and the latest is South Mountain. The camera is to be worn in the middle of the chest.
Officers with cameras have received video training on its use and have received a user policy. The cameras were supposed to be rolled out throughout the year, but that process has been expedited in recent weeks due to the alleged excessive force questions the department is now addressing with a May 27th incident involving officers drawing guns on a young family.
"I know there are some out there that say 'wow, now we can keep an eye on the cops.' It [cameras] allows people, it allows the public to see some of the things that we see on a regular basis, and I guess for lack of a better word, allows 'our side' of what transpired not just what we see on cell phones," he adds.
After every shift, officers are to dock their cameras onto loading docks located at the precinct which will automatically pull the video onto a police server for storage. The total cost of the project is $5.6 million for 1,200 cameras, according to police and Mayor Kate Gallego by August 2019.
"If it means that the community, the officers interact differently in a more positive way, then it's worth every penny we spent," said Thompson. "We are trying to make sure that we don't cut corners to where we don't train our people and want to make sure it is adequate, but at the same time we want to be expeditious with the rollout of the cameras."