‘Needed for so long’: Tacoma rolls out new police body cameras

VIDEO: New body cameras for dozens of Tacoma police officers

TACOMA, Wash. — On Monday, Tacoma police said more than 80 officers hit the streets wearing the department’s new body cameras as part of the first phase of an initiative to equip hundreds of uniformed officers.

“It’s kind of a deep breath and a here we go,” said Tacoma police Lt. Christopher Travis, who told KIRO 7 the police department fully supports the rollout as a way to help build trust in the community. “We also want transparency and we recognize body worn cameras often bring that to the community.”

Calls for Tacoma to purchase police body cameras intensified last year following the police custody death of Manuel Ellis. Tacoma’s mayor said at the time that the city had “waited way too long.”

Content Continues Below

Tacoma police said uniformed officers from all shifts were included in the initial rollout of 80 body cameras Monday. Another 80 officers will get cameras in the next 30 to 60 days.

Last September, KIRO 7 spoke with the Community’s Police Advisory Committee (CPAC), which recommended changes to the department’s proposed body camera policies.

At the time, the committee said the community had concerns regarding proposed policies that contained “too much ambiguity with when to turn” police cameras on.

Tacoma police told KIRO 7 Tuesday that officers with body cameras will record all interactions with the community while on calls.

“Just about everything (CPAC) brought in terms of policy recommendations were pretty much adopted on the spot,” said CPAC Chairman Stephen Hagberg. “One of the things that changed was they will not be uploading the videos from home. They’ll have to do it from a Tacoma facility.”

Tacoma police said the goal is to have more than 200 uniformed officers, from the traffic beat to the homeless outreach team, equipped with body cameras by March.

“We recognize this is a work in progress,” said Lt. Travis. “We will have to adjust; we will have to refine not only policies and procedures but equipment.”