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Colorado Springs police record 115,000 videos on body cameras

Department enters second year of program

Colorado Springs police enter second...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Colorado Springs Police Department has averaged 4,100 recorded videos per month since it began equipping the force with body-worn cameras last year.

"We've recorded a total of 115,000," said Chief Pete Carey during a Friday morning briefing at the Police Operations Center.

Police have hired two people to process the video from 482 cameras and take public requests for it.

"We're averaging as many as 10 requests per week," said Commander Pat Rigdon, project manager for the camera program.

El Paso County District Attorney Dan May said around two-thirds of the video is from misdemeanor cases that can be deleted from the system within 60 days.

"But the process still can be overwhelming," he said.  "In the past, we could read the back of a ticket or a police report in a matter of minutes to negotiate with the defense attorney," he said.  "Now, you may have three body cameras, each with 30 minutes of video, and it can take 90 minutes to prepare."

While police, prosecutors and defense attorneys can watch the video within 48 hours of an incident, public access to the video -- including for the media -- is more involved.

"It could take from a few minutes to several days to respond to a request," Rigdon said.  "We have to watch the video and blur out inappropriate or personal information, things that aren't allowed to be released.  It all depends on the length of the video, the number of videos, the volume of requests that we get in and whether it's a current investigation."

So far, police have provided the media with only one video; an officer-involved shooting last month that was ruled justified.

At Friday's briefing, police provided two videos; one of a foot pursuit that ended when an officer tased the suspect, and the other of a traffic stop in which a felony suspect was arrested.

"We chose those videos to show the range of what can happen when an officer responds to a call," Rigdon said.  "It helps to determine a person's intent and demeanor much better than reading about (an incident) or hearing what someone said about it."

Police said they have had few instances of officers forgetting to turn on their cameras.

"The hardest part is remembering to turn (them) off," May said.

Rigdon said police are still adjusting to the cameras and learning the best ways to use them efficiently.

"It's a big change for us," he said.  "A major shift in the way we do policing and approaching calls."

Yet Carey said the process has been relatively smooth, and Rigdon agrees.

"I think we're a model because of the cooperation we have," Rigdon said.  "Our district attorney, public defender, city attorney and courts have worked well together on this.  Few other agencies have this level of cooperation."

Police said they tested dash cameras 20 years ago but have no plans to acquire them because the department can't afford them.

The department plans to have at least 500 cameras by the end of the year.

"Most of the officers below the rank of lieutenant have them and so do most of our patrol officers," Rigdon said.  "Next we'll equip some of our specialized units."

Carey said the cameras are helping the department achieve its goal of being more transparent and accountable to the public.


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