Published on November 21st, 2021 📆 | 2531 Views ⚑0
Greeley Police Department ‘ahead of the curve’ with new updates to body camera technology – Greeley Tribune
As a way to comply with the state’s law enforcement integrity and accountability bills, ensure officer safety and be transparent with the Greeley community, the Greeley Police Department has made advanced and efficient upgrades to their body-camera technology.
In June 2020, the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Bill, also known as Senate Bill 217, was passed as part of an effort to address issues involving police brutality and use of force by officers. One focus of the bill included a requirement for officers to wear body cameras on duty along with the mandate to release body camera footage within 21 days.
A year later, House Bill 1250, a follow-up to SB-217, was signed into law to clarify some of the issues and unclear aspects of SB-217, including:
- broadening the requirement of law enforcement to wear body-cameras to wellness checks.
- adding flexibility to consequences for officers who used unnecessary force.
- expanding data collection requirements.
With the new legislation passed, Interim Greeley Police Chief Adam Turk said unfunded mandates were passed down to law enforcement departments throughout the state. As for the Greeley Police Department, new technology was a must to stay ahead of the curve, according to Turk, who recently replaced Chief Mark Jones on an interim basis after Jones’ retirement in September.
“So right now, we have a pretty robust body-worn camera program,” Turk said. “We feel like we’re ahead of the curve as compared to other agencies and the rest of the state.”
Since both bills mandate body cameras by a certain date and the release of camera footage to victims within a required number of days, Turk indicated the department needs to be as efficient as possible with their resources. As a result, the department created a full-time body camera manager and two part-time roles to oversee the department’s 173 body cameras.
To continue to stay ahead and be efficient, Axon, the department’s body camera provider, and Greeley police officials met to go over newly available body-camera technology. After an evaluation, the department made a budget request for 2022 to the Greeley City Council.
According to a contract with the city, the police department has plans to add several new upgrades and programs in January, specifically in six areas. Turk believes these changes will be beneficial to Greeley law enforcement and residents of the city:
Axon TASER 7 — A new and improved technology to the staff’s current tasers that automatically turn body-cameras on when drawn
The department currently utilizes Axon’s TASER X26P, but by next year, the devices will be updated to TASER 7. The new taser has better technology, including two cartridges, one for shorter distances and one for longer distances. Once the upgraded tasers come in toward the end of the year, officers will be trained before the weapons are put into service, Turk said.
“So right now, when you turn your taser on … it sends a signal and it activates cameras within a certain amount of feet,” Turk said. “We’re doing the same thing for the whole service, and then in our vehicles.”
Axon Signal Sidearm and Signal Vehicle — Along with tasers, body-cameras will be activated when a gun is drawn and when a vehicle or vehicle lights are turned on
Along with tasers, holsters and vehicles will have automatic signal features called Axon Signal Sidearm and Signal Vehicle. Signal Sidearm will go on the holsters so when an officer reaches to grab a handgun, that body-camera and others in close proximity will be activated.
Signal Vehicle will go in all patrol vehicles, but the department has not decided what will send a signal to activate the cameras. Most likely, the signal will come from a combination of turning on the patrol lights and sirens, or when a less-lethal shotgun is removed.
“It’s a fail-safe, proof system,” Turk said. “So, if an officer is dealing with something that’s high stress, high liability and they have to make a quick decision … some redundancy is built in so that the camera gets activated. It’s to protect the officers so that we can’t say, ‘Well, this happened so quickly that he or she didn’t have time to turn their camera on.’”
Axon Respond — A live GPS function that allows for the tracking of officers on duty
Software updates to body cameras and footage will be included in the 2022 budget for the Greeley Police Department, including live GPS functions, more efficient quality control in videos, better data metrics and auditing system and a quicker transcription program.
Live GPS technology inside body cameras, called Axon Respond, is an important new function that can track officers who are lost or hurt, according to Turk.
“The live function allows us some officer safety software, so that if an officer is in a foot chase, we can’t get ahold of them or something really tragic happens, we can go find them,” Turk said.
Axon Redaction — An upgraded software for working on quality control of body-camera footage
When officers get requests from the public and it is required to do quality control on video, whether that be redacting a face or a license plate, Axon Redaction is a more enhanced, effective and faster software. The department staff will be able to move through those requests quicker with the new feature, Turk explained.
Axon Performance — A more efficient auditing video system
Another future upgrade is Axon Performance, an auditing system that takes the guesswork out for supervisors by sending reminders and assigning videos to audit.
Officers can view footage to check audio, controls, video quality, things wrong with the camera, problems with activation and more. Turk said the auditing system is great chance to get feedback from an employee about what is working and what can be improved.
The program also does data metrics where it gives staff rates of activation, like how body cameras are being charged, not charged, turned off, muted and more, Turk stated.
Transcription — This program transcribes video footage in amore efficient way
Lastly, the transcription is a software package in the body-worn camera platform that was purchased by the police department. All video from the cameras is uploaded to a cloud-based server and transcribed immediately.
The software doesn’t say who’s speaking and the transcriptions are not 100% accurate. Turk said some cleanup is required before the transcription becomes a document or public record. The interim chief indicated it’s a good add-on, because an officer can use keywords to find a certain part in the recording much quicker.
Aside from making things safer, these changes will also have an impact when it comes to the time it takes to release footage, which has to happen within a certain timeframe as per the new legislation. Turk discussed how time-consuming that process can be — from getting a request, redacting video, auditing and shipping the footage — and how improved technology is needed to be more beneficial.
“So, from that respect, some of the software is designed to be more efficient, so that we can be more transparent with the community, make sure that we’re in compliance with the Senate bill and the House bill,” Turk said. “Some of the technology is for the officers and the public safety technicians to protect them, like the GPS, the upgraded tasers, the redundancy in the Signal Vehicle and Signal Sidearm. If they do forget, we have something there to help them out.”
While these new updates are coming in 2022 for the Greeley Police Department, the Weld County Sheriff’s Office has already incorporated several of them.
Sam Kaneta III, administrative captain of the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, said their body-worn cameras are basically phones, there is GPS, video and still photo capabilities and an accelerometer.
The accelerometer is similar to the live GPS update Greeley PD is receiving next year, as the device picks up movement and alerts responding units where that movement is headed. If a deputy were to get assaulted, shot or is laying on the ground from an injury, the accelerometer would send alerts to get responding deputies to help out, Kaneta said.
“So feature-wise, I believe that we’ve got one of the most technologically advanced cameras on the market,” Kaneta said.
Technologically, Kaneta said the sheriff’s office’s body cameras are shooting in 720 pixels, but the agency is aiming to move toward 1080 pixels to up the quality.
The sheriff’s office also has many automatic features in place that the police department is adding on, including the Signal Sidearm and Signal Vehicle. Kaneta said with this type of technology, it gives deputies one less thing to worry about.
As for Turk’s thoughts on law enforcement being required to wear body camera’s on duty, he is a fan. He believes the cameras serve a positive purpose because people behave better when they are being recorded and Greeley Police Department complaints have gone down since the technology was implemented.
“Everyone behaves better on camera,” Turk said. “When the officers have a tool on them, and they can show people that they’re being recorded, they tend to act a little better, a little nicer. The other thing I know, empirically, our complaints are down because we have recordings, and we can offer people the opportunity to look at them.”
The Weld County Sheriff’s Office has also seen a reduction in the amount of complaints since starting to utilize body-worn cameras, according to Kaneta. He said suspects and citizens realize a body camera’s rolling and become less inclined to try and file a complaint knowing there is footage of the accounts.
However, while the benefits of body-camera footage include giving accurate supplements in deputy reports, being used as prosecutorial or exclusionary evidence and reducing complaints, Kaneta expressed doubts about body cameras actually solving police brutality issues.
“The body-worn camera system as a whole, whether it’s in this county, the state or the nation, doesn’t solve the problem with police brutality,” Kaneta said. “What it does do is, perhaps, expose it when it does happen. But that’s a whole societal thing that that has to be changed … and I don’t know if a piece of technology is going to be able to do that.”
But, overall, Turk credits the cameras as a good tool for helping explain the story and narrative of a situation better. It shows how officers work to de-escalate incidents before they have to resort to force or a hands-on approach.
“At the end of the day, you can give as many verbal commands as you want,” Turk said. “If someone’s going to end up being taken into custody or going to jail, at some point, you’re gonna have to go hands on. So, if it shows the escalation and de-escalation and explains a better narrative to the community, then sign us up because it’s worth the money.”
Turk admitted law enforcement is “not perfect,” and mistakes can happen, but body camera technology allows the department to review and deal with mistakes, while being transparent about the incident with the public.
“There’s some ugliness in policing, where the officers are getting spit on and cursed at and people are using profanity laden tirades against the officers,” Turk said. “It’s not pretty to see. I’m proud of the amount of patience that our officers display while taking that and trying to de-escalate it before resorting to our use of force paradigm and having to go hands on.”
However, despite his support for body camera technology and his compliance with SB-217 and HB-1250, Turk revealed there are good and bad parts to the Police Integrity, Transparency and Accountability Act. For Turk, the negative aspects center around vague language about minor offenses and when officers are permitted to use force.
The entire country is dealing with changes in law enforcement policy, but Turk said some of the contents of the two integrity bills do not help the Greeley Police Department’s mission and goals when it comes to targeting career criminals.
He used the example of officers responding to a minor shoplift. What happens if that person is armed, has felony warrants or flees the scene?
Turk, who has been in law enforcement for 25 years, said minor incidents can turn to major very quickly. That is why he believes the bills hamper police efforts — they lack definition of what is minor versus what is major.
Kaneta stated he believed the SB-217 was “confusing” and “ambiguous,” especially with the provisions stating jail staff members do not have to wear cameras if there are cameras in the facility, unless they are responding to a potential use of force. Due to this wording and the likeliness to use force in the jail, the next update for the sheriff’s office will be to extend body-worn cameras to everyone in uniform, including jail deputies.
“Well, you know, police accountability is a good and righteous thing,” Kaneta said. “But I’ve done this job for 24 years, and I can’t say that the issues that you see on the news are everyday occurrences in Weld County. But there was such a, ‘Hey, here’s this bill to up police accountability,’ without, what I believe, input from the police.
“So, it’s needed, it just would have been nice to have a little bit of a voice in that process.”
Turk is looking forward to the evolution of SB-217 and HB-1250 in the next few years, with cleanups of unfunded mandates and definitions to better clarify the changes to law enforcement.
“Stay tuned,” he said to people in the community in regards to follow-ups to the bills. “But we’re ready for it. Policies are up to date. We’re ahead of the curve on technology. We’re ready for it. I’ve no doubt. And I think the community appreciates that we’re not so far behind the curve that we’re playing catch up.”