Implementing a smart body camera policy - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Implementing a smart body camera policy

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The recent shooting of 20 year old Joseph Hensz has put a spotlight on the body camera the Spokane police officer was wearing but did not have turned on. The recent shooting of 20 year old Joseph Hensz has put a spotlight on the body camera the Spokane police officer was wearing but did not have turned on.
SPOKANE, Wash. -

The recent shooting of 20 year old Joseph Hensz has put a spotlight on the body camera the Spokane police officer was wearing but did not have turned on. Police say Hensz was driving erratically in a stolen car and put the public and officers at risk before one Spokane police officer fired several shots and injured Hensz after a pit maneuver that ended the chase.

At the Center For Justice executive director Rick Eichstaedt says "here we are one month in to the program. Already we have an incident where it doesn't seem to be working. It speaks to either the weakness of the policy or the weakness of the training that the officer received." Eichstaedt believes the incident involving the officer who shot Hensz should be the focal point of how the police department can do it better when it becomes mandatory. As part of the pilot program police Chief Frank Straub said in August that officers will not be disciplined for not having the camera turned on. The pilot is meant for the department, Straub has said previously to see what works and what does not.

The Washington State Patrol is handling the investigation in to what happened during the shooting and the events leading up to it. Police spokeswoman Monique Cotton also says that part of the investigation is to find out why the camera was not turned on. So far the department has not come out and made any comment about the body camera or how it plans to use this event moving forward for any potential changes. That's something Rick Eichstaedt criticized. "I think the department needs to come out and tell its version of the story. What happened here? How do we make sure as this program goes forward that it doesn't happen again. The Spokane Police implemented the pilot program were 17 officers were fitted with body cameras in an effort to increase transparency. That program is set to end in December then officers will be required to wear them.

How another agency has handled the cameras:

In January the Liberty Lake police department began using body cameras after a 3 month pilot program. That police department consists of 6 officers, a Sergeant, detective and police Chief Brian Asmus along with other staff. Asmus says his officers are required to record every interaction with the public including traffic stops. Asmus also says that because the policy is so new he has to account for human error in simply forgetting to turn the camera on. "We have to be understanding that this is something that is new. Our policy allows for some leniency in that, so if the camera was not on we go to the officer and ask them why." Asmus also says that more swift action can be taken against the officer as the program grows out of its infancy if the camera was not on.

It was a less than perfect roll out of the cameras Asmus says. "It was not necessarily engrained in the officers that every time they make a contact they are going to activate the camera." The size of the police department Asmus says allowed it to meet individually with each officer as to how to activate the cameras. Asmus recalls one instance where a request came in from a prosecutor working a DUI case asking for the body camera video. The officer did not turn the camera on and did not record the video. "It's a learning curve." Asmus says. January 2015 will mark one year since the department has used body cameras. Asmus says its not perfect "Now that we have had this policy for about a year, this is now getting more engrained. This is just part of how they handle their everyday patrol duties."

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