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Report: Body Camera Policy Gives Phoenix Police Unfair Advantage

A new report analyzes body camera use policies for 25 police departments around the country, and makes recommendations to change them. Credit: Kuzmik_A/iStockphoto.
A new report analyzes body camera use policies for 25 police departments around the country, and makes recommendations to change them. Credit: Kuzmik_A/iStockphoto.
November 10, 2015

PHOENIX – According to a new report released Monday by a coalition of civil rights groups called The Leadership Conference, the Phoenix Police Department shouldn't let officers review footage from their body cameras before they write incident reports.

The report, compiled by the Washington, D.C. consulting firm Upturn, scores 25 municipal police departments – including Phoenix.

Report co-author Harlan Yu, a principal with Upturn, says the report also details how transparent and fair police department policies are, and whether they respect the privacy of citizens.

"In order for cameras to live up to their promise," he says, "departments must have carefully crafted policies in place to guide the use of these cameras and the footage that they produce."

The report says the Phoenix Police Department could improve its body-camera policy by making camera footage available online, limiting the use of facial-recognition software, and specifying exactly when officers can and cannot turn the cameras off.

Yu also says the policy of letting police officers review their own body-camera footage before they write a report gives them an unfair advantage. He says criminal defendants don't get to check footage of an incident prior to giving a statement.

"Pre-report viewing creates an uneven playing field," says Yu. "In the worst case, an officer could conform his or her report to match only what was shown in the video, rather than report an independent account of what he or she saw."

The Phoenix Police Department did not immediately respond to calls for comment. The department began using body cameras in 2013, and now has 145 cameras deployed.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ