This month marks one year since Pasco Police started wearing body cameras

It’s been one year since Pasco officers started wearing body cameras. Since the enactment of the tool, the department has seen positive results.

About 50 officers and street crime detectives wear body cameras in the city. They’re the only department in the Tri-Cities to have them.

“The amount of evidence that we have to document crime scenes and document what we’ve done has increased exponentially,” said Capt. Jeff Harpster with the Pasco Police Department. “We have approximately 13 terabytes of data stored on that cloud.”

Harpster said videos on the server will eventually be deleted, depending on the case.

“As videos age out depending on their classifications they will drop off the server — like a test video,” he explained. “Depending on the crime that it’s related to or if it’s a public request.”

He said some are going to live a lot longer or even indefinitely.

While the amount of evidence has grown, the Axon body cameras have made it easier for the department to save them. Prior, Harpster said officers would have to upload photos back at the station, print them out and go through the records clerks.

Now, the cameras have the ability to take pictures and upload them to the server. It can also be categorized by case numbers.

“It just makes it so much easier for the officers,” Harpster said.

The body cameras also allow for more detailed reports because officers can review the video on their phone through an app called evidence.com. The video also adds to evidence for the courts when there’s a criminal case.

Harpster said the body cameras have also helped sergeants review video in regard to complaints made against officers.

“We’ve always been able to go back and review videos when we get officer complaints and see just how our officers were treating the public or if that’s a valid complaint,” Harpster explained. “This just adds that much more data that we’re collecting and that we can make sure that our officers are adhering to our policies.”

The captain told KAPP-KVEW that complaints frequently turn out to be different from what is depicted on the body cameras. Most recently, Harpster said a complaint was made against an officer. The series of events made by the complainant didn’t match what was recorded.

“We just have that much more of a layer of security to make sure that we’re treating our public the way we want our officers to treat the public, and that we expect them to, and how they conduct themselves in public,” he said.

During a Pasco City Council meeting, Harpster laid out how many public records requests have been submitted and the manpower to fulfill those requests.

Since the start of the body cameras, there has been 48 public records request to date. The City Clerk has put in 72 hours to review video and more than an hour per request for redaction.

The Pasco Police Department has spent 48 hours reviewing video and 30 minutes per request to review video and generate the final video for the requestor.

As technology grows, the department is hoping to keep up with the times.

“There are all sorts of things Axon is coming out with,” Harpster said.

Right now, they have to rely on their officers to start their cameras, which they have to tap. However, technology in some of their cars makes it a little easier.

“A couple of our cars have Axon fleet cameras, which is the car version of the camera,” Harpster explained. “If they’re responding to an event, and they have their overhead lights on, well that automatically turns their body camera on. Another thing with that is if that vehicle with an active switch comes into an area with other body-worn cameras, if those cameras aren’t on, they’ll turn on.”

Most importantly for the department, it’s about the community.

“It ensures the safety of our officers, the safety of our community as well, and ensures that we’re being proactive in what we’re doing here as a police department and staying transparent with our community,” Harpster said.

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