The Durango Police Department plans to buy body cameras and replace in-car cameras next year.
The department has requested about $43,000 for body cameras and $17,000 for the car cameras in the proposed 2017 city budget.
Officers have been requesting body cameras for a while because they improve transparency, reduce complaints and help prosecutions, Durango police spokesman Lt. Ray Shupe said. The dashcams need replacement, as well, because they are 10 years old.
Video footage can also help disprove false complaints against officers, he said.
“They want to be able to protect themselves a little bit,” he said.
For example, in August, a claim that a Durango police officer assaulted a woman during a routine traffic stop was proved false after dashcam footage was released.
The budget request has not been controversial among Durango city councilors, and if the request is approved, the cameras will be rolled out next year after the department finishes testing them and officers have been trained to use them, Shupe said. An exact date hasn’t been set.
The department has considered purchasing body cameras for several years, but in the past, doing so could have required hiring a full-time employee to manage the data.
But technology has improved, and new software to manage the video may simplify the workload for the department, and it would not require an additional employee.
Police officers are not required to tell people when they are being filmed, but often a reminder from an officer can help ease tensions, he said.
“Our officers already make the assumptions they are being recorded, just because it’s so easily accessible,” Shupe said, referencing smartphones.
While the body cameras will be a useful addition, the footage may not show everything the officer can see.
“It’s important to remember that cameras are a tool, and they certainly have limitations like any other tool,” Shupe said.