GOLDEN, Colo. (KDVR) — Golden police have started using body cams that can activate automatically in the most serious interactions.
Traditionally, an officer needs to remember to hit a button on their body-worn camera to ensure footage is being recorded. But body cams being used by Golden Police are equipped with what’s called Signal Technology.
Anytime an officer activates the lights bars on their patrol car, it triggers the body cam to begin recording.
If an officer pulls his Taser or duty weapon from a holster, that also triggers the body cam to immediately start recording.
“So, it’s really a fail-safe to protect the officer and the community, and then we can’t go back and say ‘Well, why didn’t you activate the camera? Well, because I was facing a threat in front of me’,” said Deputy Chief Joe Harvey of the Golden Police Department.
Failure to activate a body cam has led to a number of Denver police officers being disciplined.
In 2016, the first year Denver began using body cams, there were 25 officers who received a reprimand for not turning on his or her body cam.
In 2017, the number of officer body cam violations was 60.
In 2018, the number dropped to 28 violations, followed by 24 violations in 2019, and 23 violations in 2020.
Under Colorado Senate Bill 217, Harvey said juries will be allowed to infer intentional wrong-doing if an officer forgets to activate their body cam.
But Signal Technology helps ensure officers don’t have to remember to hit a button in the most serious interactions.
The Golden Police department has reminders on every exit door, telling officers to make sure their body cam is in ready mode, so if there’s a sudden emergency, an officer who pulls a weapon from the holster will automatically activate the body camera.
“You don’t have time to think. I‘ve got to hit my body-worn camera before I go to a lethal option or a less lethal option, and that can happen to you in two seconds. We just learned that with Officer Beesley, he didn’t even have time to respond,” said Harvey, referring to the Arvada Police Officer Gordon Beesley who was fatally ambushed in June.
Arvada Police don’t yet have body cams, but by July of 2023, body cams will be required for every law enforcement agency in Colorado.
Golden Police Department is spending nearly $1 million over 10 years to equip 52 officers with body cams and to store all their video clips.
Harvey said having Signal Technology costs a little more, but it means officers in the most high-stress situations won’t have to worry if they forgot to hit a button on their chest.
“Let’s take the decision-making process out. Let’s make it an automatic function, puts the officers in a good position, puts the community in a good position, we stay compliant with the law.”
Most body-worn cameras have what’s known as a 30-second buffer built in so the moment they’re activated, the camera actually has 30 seconds of pre-recorded footage. That allows investigators to have 30 seconds of video before a gun or Taser was unholstered and to show investigators what led up to the officer’s decision to pull out a gun or Taser.