Colorado Springs police have settled on a body-worn camera company, bringing the department one step closer to outfitting all officers with a technology that's becoming almost standard across the country.
Mayor John Suthers on Wednesday approved a contract between the city's police department and Utility Associates Inc., a vendor based in Tucker, Ga., according to program supervisor Cmdr. Pat Rigdon. Other vendors that were finalists were Taser International and VieVu.
The equipment will be implemented in late July to about 65 officers in the Gold Hill division, which covers the city's south and southwest neighborhoods, Rigdon said. This testing phase is scheduled to run up to 60 days.
"This will be done in order to test the system and ensure that it is working properly before we roll it out in other areas of the department," Rigdon said, referring to the Stetson Hills, Falcon and Sand Creek substations. The process could end in October with about 475 officers expected to be equipped with the cameras.
The decision to choose Utility Associates centered around the company's "next generation" equipment, Rigdon said. The cameras have the ability to turn on automatically in certain pressure situations, including when a patrol car's sirens are activated or when an officer is running. In addition to GPS mapping capabilities, the cameras automatically upload from a scene and don't require being docked at a central station.
"This particular camera will require a change in the style of uniform that our officers will wear," Rigdon said. "The camera is actually integrated into the uniform. We feel that this will provide some security for the camera and stability for the video when the officer is moving."
In April, Fountain police - the first regional law enforcement agency to take on the equipment early last year - announced that about 1,400 videos with possible criminal complaints were not properly labeled, a process that required extra time from the officers to return to the police station to complete.
In an effort to become more transparent and accountable, Colorado Springs police started considering the use of cameras in late 2013. But the program was pushed forward after the Aug. 8, 2014, fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and other incidents that sparked debates about the presence of video documentation in police situations.
Last fall, Colorado Springs police received a $600,000 grant from the Department of Justice to assist in purchasing 500 cameras, which the law enforcement agency had to match to cover the cost of the program for the first two years.
"We will be tracking a variety of metrics and data along the way," Rigdon said. "The most significant indicators that we will be tracking are the affect that the cameras have on the number of use of force incidents, as well as the number and outcome of citizen complaints."