Crime: Phoenix is largest U.S. city without widespread police body cameras - PressFrom - US
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CrimePhoenix is largest U.S. city without widespread police body cameras

21:15  18 june  2019
21:15  18 june  2019 Source:   azcentral.com

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A witness video of Phoenix police officers yelling, cursing and pointing guns at a couple accused of shoplifting and their two young children has garnered national attention, and raised numerous questions about police behavior in the city.

Key among those questions: Where are the officers' body camera videos?

Incorrect comments by politicians and national media alleging that the officers turned off their cameras went viral. But the officers didn't have cameras at all.

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Phoenix is the largest city in the nation that hasn't yet issued body cameras to its officers.

The Phoenix City Council voted in February to fund 2,000 body-worn cameras for patrol officers. But the cameras haven't yet been rolled out.

The controversial May 27 arrest prompted a public apology from Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and an assurance that the city would take measures to prevent similar encounters from occurring again.

She said the city will distribute the body-worn cameras by the end of the summer.

Gov. Doug Ducey also weighed in on the case.

"I do think technology can help here. I know that cameras are being rolled out in different precincts in Phoenix police. I think we all ought to behave as if we’re on camera, especially in a setting like this," he said.

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'Completely inappropriate'

Dravon Ames, 22, and his pregnant fiancée, 24-year-old Iesha Harper, are demanding $10 million from the city, claiming the officers used excessive force.

They allege police pointed a gun at their children, threatened them and physically harmed Ames and their daughter, all because the 4-year-old stole a doll from a dollar store.

The police report contends the couple actually stole other items from the store and were combative with police. At one point, officers reported, they thought Ames was reaching for a weapon.

Still, Gallego said she was "sick" over what she saw in the video.

"It was completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional. There is no situation in which this behavior is ever close to acceptable. As a mother myself, seeing these children placed in such a terrifying situation is beyond upsetting," she said.

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Gallego announced that the police department would speed up deployment of its long-awaited body camera program so that officers are outfitted with cameras by the end of August.

But the announcement has some questioning whether all officers will be outfitted and others asking why Phoenix has taken so long to implement the technology.

Will all officers have body cameras?

The Phoenix City Council approved $5 million for 2,000 Axon body cameras in February.

Full deployment of the cameras was initially expected to take through the end of the year. But Phoenix Police Commander Steve Martos said the department now plans to outfit every 911-responding officer with a body camera by August.

Community action officers — who assist with block watches and community group concerns — and officers in the neighborhood-enforcement teams — who respond to blight and neighborhood crimes — will not wear body cameras, Martos said.

He said the department had originally planned to wait 30 days between deployment in each of the city's seven precincts to "catch any snags," but found limited issues during deployment in the first precinct, Maryvale.

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Martos said the department thinks it can speed up the wait period between precincts to two weeks, which would put it on track to deploy all 2,000 cameras by August.

What's taken Phoenix so long?

Phoenix has lagged behind its neighboring cities when it comes to body cameras.

Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the country. The only larger cities — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston — have already implemented body cameras for their officers.

Nearly all of the Valley's suburbs have also fully deployed body cameras to patrol officers.

Phoenix began a pilot program in 2013 with 300 body cameras but didn't expand the program until this year.

There were multiple issues with the public bidding process to select a provider of the cameras. Those required the department to redo the bidding process in 2017.

But cost has been the main hurdle in implementing the cameras citywide.

In the past several budget cycles, the City Council has struggled over whether to purchase additional cameras or hire more officers.

Phoenix's police force is substantially larger than the departments in surrounding cities, making the financial burden exponentially larger.

Reporter Maria Polletta contributed to this story.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 480-694-1823. Follow her on Twitter @jboehm_NEWS.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix is largest U.S. city without widespread police body cameras

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