Aurora PD gets $852K for body-worn camera program; officers violated policy 70+ times since 2018

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AURORA, Colo. -- The Aurora Police Department is one of 11 large police agencies in the country to receive a federal body-worn camera grant this year.

The department will receive $852,580. The funding aims to help agencies develop a program that enhances officer and citizen safety while promoting “mutual trust and civility between officers and the public,” and building “community trust.”

Recently, the Aurora police leaders have publicly expressed concern about their current body-worn cameras, as many have fallen off of officers’ uniforms during critical moments.

In a recent altercation with Elijah McClain, who later died after being sedated with ketamine, the body cameras for all three officers involved in McClain’s detention dislodged. A medical examiner could not determine the cause of McClain’s death, but the carotid hold that officers used on him could not be ruled out as a contributing factor.

“We need better mounting equipment for our cameras,” said Nick Metz, the Aurora police chief, in November.

“It doesn’t help us when it looks like something that it’s not,” said Paul O’Keefe, the Aurora police deputy chief, in October. “It’s a common complaint for us in physical altercations for those to become dislodged. We are looking at ways for cameras that we currently have to stay on better.”

According to Anthony Camacho, a spokesperson for the department, the city of Aurora currently pays $24,000 each month for body camera equipment and storage.

“We are currently looking at all the options for body-worn cameras and have not ruled out any companies,” he said in an email to the FOX31 Problem Solvers. Camacho said the agency’s current body-worn camera contract, which includes 525 licenses for cameras, ends in 2020.

He said the department expects the costs to increase by two or three times when a new contract is awarded.

“When we signed the current contract we were able to negotiate a very favorable rate,” he said.

Camacho said the grant funding would help offset what the department would pay in the future, but he wasn’t certain whether the funding would help the department increase the number of cameras it currently has.

According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance award description, the grant is also intended to help with “training of officers administrators, and associated agencies requiring access to digital media evidence.”

The Problem Solvers obtained records showing officers violated the department’s body-worn camera policy more than 70 times since 2018. One officer whose camera fell off during the altercation with McClain has had two violations for failing to activate his body-worn camera since 2018.

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