EUGENE, Ore -- It has been almost one year since every patrol officer in the Eugene Police Department has been required to wear body cameras as a part of their uniform. About five years ago, EPD began incorporating body cameras as part of a pilot program involving only its downtown and motor officers. Since that initial program, it has evolved.
Officer Brandon Rathje said the transition period in which all officers were outfitted with body cameras was fairly seamless and the cameras are simple to use. Rathje said one of the reasons he calls himself a true believer in the body camera is because it can de-escalate a situation after first making contact with someone. The cameras also become an extra set of eyes and ears.
"To have the video on hand, having that third party independent witness that we can draw upon, that we can look at. The cameras going to record whatever it can see and it's going to record whatever it can hear. Being able to use that as a tool for evidentiary purposes is phenomenal for us," said Rathje.
KEZI 9 News also spoke to the Eugene Police Auditor. They receive any potential complaints about officers. The main job of the auditor is to hold EPD accountable as well as provide transparency. The police auditor also watches body camera footage as part of their investigative process. Being able to have access to and use the footage makes their investigation more thorough. "We have the perspective of the person that's complaining. We want to get the perspective of the officer and also the camera. Then, we review all of that to decide what classification to take with that," said Deputy Police Auditor Leia Pitcher.
The police auditor is able to get a clearer and more full picture of what occurred in any given situation, "The body camera doesn't catch the entire event from all perspectives or anything magical like that. It does provide a linear reality of occurrence so we're able to look at that and see usually rather quickly whether there's a policy violation or not which is what we're looking for," said Pitcher.
Having the footage as an extra tool can condense the amount of time takes for the Eugene Police Auditor to conduct and investigation and enables them to not have to send as many cases to the Internal Affairs Department.
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