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Feds recommend body cameras for Portland, Oregon, police

November 16, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department is recommending that all uniformed officers in Portland, Oregon, wear body cameras if they are on tactical, traffic or crowd control operations.

Oregon’s largest city has been in negotiations with the police union over how the cameras would be used and when officers could review footage after an incident. The City Council is set to vote Wednesday on a proposal from Mayor Ted Wheeler to dedicate $2.6 million to start purchasing the cameras, The Oregonian/OregonLive reporte d Tuesday.

A federal judge last week urged the city, the Justice Department, the police union and community groups to return to mediation to come up with a policy on governing the use of the cameras, the newspaper reported.

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Giving officers cameras is one step that Portland can take to return to compliance with a 2014 settlement with the federal government over police use of excessive force against people with mental illness. The Justice Department says Portland is the only city among the top 75 most populous cities, ranked by 2020 U.S. Census data, that doesn’t use officer-worn body cameras.

The Justice Department recommends that the cameras should automatically turn on when an officer draws a gun, fires a Taser or initiates a car chase. They also should be activated when officers are dispatched to a call for service and engaged in any law enforcement activity with a member of the public, excluding sexual assault investigations or death notifications, the federal lawyers wrote.

The biggest dispute in devising a camera policy is whether officers can preview footage before giving a statement to an investigator, the newspaper reported.

The Justice Department recommended that officers who use deadly force or are involved in a death in custody can’t view the footage until they have reported the use of force, completed paperwork and interviews associated with the incident and been given permission by the local prosecutor.

Those proposals draw from policies used by Baltimore and Atlanta police, according to Justice Department officials.

Body-worn cameras are part of a contract negotiation between the city and the police union that’s currently underway. The Portland Police Association says it supports the use of cameras but wants the city to allow officers to review footage before writing their reports.