Tacoma police say body cameras hitting the streets in January

VIDEO: Tacoma police say body cameras hitting the streets in January

TACOMA, Wash. — The wait for police body cameras has been a long one but the Tacoma Police Department now says they will be in the field within five months.

That’s good news says Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards.

“I am delighted that we are going to meet the timeline. Some say it’s not quick enough but it’s more than just going to purchase bodycams and putting them on officers,” Woodards said.

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The cameras are becoming standard issue among police nationwide, recording often violent encounters between officers and the public. Delays in getting body cameras in Tacoma came from changes to Washington state records retention rules in 2019. The city has to satisfy a long list of requirements, including when to activate the camera, public disclosure and redaction process, and how to protect crime victims and specifically domestic violence victims’ rights. All that includes the city hiring five people to meet the requirements.

The call for body cameras in Tacoma intensified after the death of Manuel Ellis while in police custody in March. Cell phone and home surveillance video only shows a portion of the confrontation that ended with Ellis’ death. Woodards said in cases like that, body cameras serve to protect both police and the people they encounter.

“It’s transparency. It is not just our community’s ability to see everything but also for us as a city, for us as a government, for us as a police department to be able to see everything that happens,” Woodards said.

Tacoma police spokesperson Officer Wendy Haddow said the cameras will be worn by a large number of the department’s staff.

“All patrol officers, patrol supervisors, community liaison officers, lieutenants and detectives when they go into patrol,” Haddow said.

The city is planning a virtual public meeting on August 13 to get input on body camera practices in the field.