CLAREMORE, Okla. – Communities nationwide are accelerating their use of police body cameras in response to concerns over the use of deadly force by officers responding to routine traffic stops and suspected crime scenes.
But in this Oklahoma town 25 miles northeast of Tulsa, scene of a videotaped fatal police shooting last week of an unarmed black man, the police chief reports he will discontinue the use of common dashboard cameras in patrol cars.
Chief Stan Brown of the Claremore Police Department said he recently shut the video system down because of the cost of repairing it from storm damage and changes to the state open records law requiring police to release video recordings to the news media and other requesters.
Brown said the liberalized law makes it nearly “impossible for us to deny anyone access to video,” draining resources and manpower to redact information protected by privacy and police investigation standards against public release.
“Look at the city of Tulsa today and what happened over the weekend,” said Brown. “I can sit here and tell you DVR (digital video recorder) for police officers are invaluable, or I can tell you they are more trouble than they are worth. It depends on what side of the situation we are on in any given moment.”
The chief said his department’s video technology was badly damaged by a power surge in an Aug. 25 storm that ripped through the area, and it would cost more than $140,000 to get cruiser dashboard cameras functional – an expense his department cannot afford.
Brown said it may be more economical to replace the dashboard-mounted technology with body cameras, but the issue needs more study and discussion with the police union.