Port Townsend to hear request for police body cameras

Portable devices record audio, video with cloud storage

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Police Department is seeking to outfit its force with portable body cameras to replace vehicle-mounted devices.

Police Chief Michael Evans plans to present an option tonight for a five-year contract not to exceed $90,000 with Axon Enterprise Inc. before the City Council during its regular business meeting.

Council meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 250 Madison St., Suite 2.

Also tonight, the council will consider final approval of the Rainier Street/Upper Sims Way subarea plan, a $220,000 purchase of private property near City Lake, and it will review its advisory boards and their work plans.

City Council members also will be briefed on the Parks, Recreation and Open Space plan through contractor Berk Consulting.

In addition, letters will be finalized regarding glyphosate spraying, and supportive letters will be sent on behalf of the Port Townsend Film Festival and the ShowerAround project, which aims to use public-private partnerships for a mobile hygiene station.

If the council passes the resolution for police body cameras, it would authorize interim City Manager Nora Mitchell to purchase 20 cameras in the first year for about $30,500, including maintenance. The next four years would have annual maintenance fees of about $13,600, according to the agenda bill.

The Axon Flex portable cameras are mounted at eye level either on a hat, collar or a pair of glasses, and they are capable of recording both audio and video. The cost includes Cloud storage with redaction software, city documents stated.

The vehicle-mounted cameras are about twice as expensive, with a total of 11 units spread across five years and costing more than $93,000, a city comparison chart shows.

The police department request would replace the existing vehicle-mounted system, according to city documents.

The resolution states that Teamsters Local 589, which represents the police officers, supports the use of the technology.

The state Public Records Act includes specific protections for footage from body cameras and not for recordings from in-car cameras, the resolution stated.

The state law, RCW 42.56.240, allows identifying information to be exempt from public inspection, particularly given reasonable privacy and health-related concerns. It also exempts records that relate to an active investigation, domestic violence or sex offenses, minors, as well as any witnesses or victims of crime.

The police department’s request cites many advantages for the body cameras over the vehicle-mounted systems, including:

• Audio and video travel with the officer; the vehicle-mounted system is stationary inside the patrol car.

• The eye-level mount gives field of vision and a view that best matches what the officer sees.

• The recording provides high-definition resolution compared with the standard definition of vehicle-mounted cameras.

• The body cameras could be upgraded every 2½ years, and a warranty would cover each 2½-year period. The vehicle-mounted system has a five-year warranty with no upgrades.

• Axon is the parent company of Taser, and the body cameras integrate with new-generation Tasers.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at bmclean@peninsuladailynews.com.

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