Body Worn Camera FAQ

The City of Portland has started and paused this program multiple times due to funding issues.  However, as part of the DOJ Settlement Agreement, the City of Portland has agreed to getting this program up and running.
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Spring 2023 Update:

The Portland Police Bureau fully supports body cameras.

The City of Portland and the PPA have agreed to a BWC policy which was approved by City Council on 26 Apr 23.  We are now preparing for the pilot which is anticipated to begin in late Aug 23 and run for 60 days.  There is a lot of work to get the pilot started such as: electrical and IT facility modifications for the docking stations, training on the equipment and the policy, installation of the automated triggers for the vehicles and weapon holsters, etc.  If PPB is happy with the results of the pilot test, we will move forward with full implementation of the selected vendor Axon.  If all goes well, we anticipate the completion of full implementation by Fall 2024.

What is the body worn camera program? And what is the timeline?

The Portland Police Bureau will implement a body worn pilot program, beginning with a pilot later this year and if all goes well, full implementation by Fall 2024.  The pilot is tentatively scheduled for late Aug – late Oct 2023 at Central Precinct and the Focused Intervention Team.  If we are happy with the results of the pilot, we will negotiate a full implementation contract with Axon, conduct additional training with the rest of the users, and upgrade the facilities for the equipment.  We anticipate being fully implemented by Fall of 2024.

Who will wear the body worn cameras?

Uniformed officers from the Focused Intervention Team and Central Precinct will wear the body worn cameras during the pilot phase. All uniformed officers who have daily interactions with the public will wear them once we get to full implementation.

Does the community want body worn cameras?

A 2015 nationwide survey found 88% of Americans supported police use of body worn cameras. When we received the funding for the system in FY16/17, there was significant local support. We are currently in discussions with Western Oregon University to assist us in a research partnership to study among other topics, the current climate and local support for this project.

Other local agencies with body worn cameras are: Gresham, Port of Portland, Beaverton, Portland State University, Oregon State Police, Hillsboro PD, Forest Grove, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

When did PPB start looking into obtaining body worn cameras?

PPB began studying body worn cameras in 2014 and held community forums and collected online feedback on our website in 2015. In FY16/17, City Council funded the project, however, PPB was not ready to move forward and the project was put on hold. Since then, other major cities have refined key issues in policies and technology related to the systems. In 2018, PPB staff traveled to comparable sized jurisdictions in Arizona and California to gather more information about the practical realities of body worn cameras including; RFPs, policies, community engagement processes, overall costs, and technical requirements. Several lessons emerged from those trips ultimately readying PPB to move forward avoiding the mistakes made by other agencies and better understanding the emerging best practices around the use of the cameras.

Why does PPB want to implement a body worn camera program?

The Portland Police Bureau believes cameras will:
• Strengthen community trust and relationship
• Improve transparency and accountability
• Promote officer safety, while safeguarding the rights and privacy of community members
• Enhance complaint resolution and improve quality of investigations and criminal prosecution
• Improve training

What is the budget for the body worn camera program?

During the FY 2020-21 Fall Budget Monitoring Process (BMP) the Portland City Council authorized a one-time use of funds in the amount of $2.6M to provide PPB with the ability to create a BWC program that will allow compliance with the DOJ Amended Settlement Agreement.

Additionally, the adopted budget for FY 2022-23 included $694,603 in on-going General Fund resources to hire 1.0 FTE Information System Tech Analyst IV and 5.0 FTE Coordinator I to implement and support the BWC program.

What are current applicable laws?

The State of Oregon passed legislation in 2015 to include ORSs: 133.741, Video cameras worn by law enforcement officers, 165.54, Recording Notification, 181A.250, No Information Gathering, and 192.345, Public Records Exemptions.

Oregon law requires the following:
• Minimum 180 days retention on recordings.
• Prior to videos being released publicly, the faces of all persons (including officers) must be blurred and unidentifiable.
• Videos can only be release when it is in public interest.
• Oregon law requires the officers to announce at the beginning of the interaction that the conversation is being obtained as long as the announcement can be accomplished without causing jeopardy to the officer or any other person and without unreasonably impairing a criminal investigation.
• Oregon law requires officers to set the cameras record continuously, beginning when the officer develops reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe a crime or violation has occurred, is occurring or will occur and the officer begins to make contact with the person suspected of committing the offense.
• Oregon law says no law enforcement agency may collect or maintain information about the political, religious, or social views, associations or activities of any individual group, association, organization, cooperation, business or partnership unless such information directly relates to an investigation of criminal activities and there are reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct.

What are the key topic areas for the policy discussion? 

The big policy questions include: When should the cameras be turned on? When should they stay off? How long should the recordings be kept? Will officers have access to the recordings before writing reports or responding to internal affairs inquiries?

How do I get updated information and/or provide feedback?

The Portland Police Bureau will publish information such as: meeting minutes, the project timeline, etc. on its website. The website also has a feedback component. The Bureau will also advertise community forums through traditional media and its social media sites.

What happens when the pilot concludes?

The scoring team will review the results of the pilot and make a recommendation to the Chief office on whether to proceed with the current vendor for full implementation or go with another vendor.