Denver Cops Fail to Use Mandated Body Cams 75 Percent of the Time - Wonder Why

Body cams are suppose to help increase accountability of the police to the public, but they’re useless if the cops don’t turn them on.

Denver police officers turned on their body cameras just once out of every four use-of-force incidents during its 6-month pilot program that concluded in December, according to the Denver Post. Denver's independent police monitor Nick Mitchell said in a report that there were many cases where officers punched people, used pepper spray or use Tasers that went unrecorded because cameras weren’t turned on or malfunctions occurred.

Of the 80 use-of-force cases filed by officers, only 21 were recorded. Thirty-five of those cases involved sergeants and other supervisors or officers working off-duty assignments; ironically, none of those groups were required to wear body cameras.

One of the recommendations Mitchell made was that all officers who deal with the public should wear cameras, regardless of rank. Officers who work in specialized units, like SWAT or gang, should wear cameras too, Mitchell recommended.

In 45 use-of-force cases in which officers were on-duty, fewer than half were recorded because of technical malfunctions; some officers turned on their cameras but the footage wasn’t useful.

Denver Police Department Commander Magen Dodge, the department's operational support commander, said Mitchell’s report should not have included sergeants and off-duty cops because they were not part of the pilot program. Officers also said that encounters quickly turned dangerous and that it wasn’t safe to turn them on. Mitchell said that officers were not following department orders because they are suppose to turn on their cameras as soon as they make contact with the public. Officers, Mitchell’s report found, waited to turn on their cameras during a public encounter and then complained that the situation got too out of hand for them to turn them on.

The public monitor recommended that officers be instructed to turn on cameras as as soon as they make public contact and keep the camera on until the encounter ends. Another recommendation was to tell offers to inform people during an encounter that they are being recorded.

One of the findings from the 2014 report revealed a 64-percent increase in use-of-force complaints against officers from 2013. Denver Sheriff Department deputies saw a 45 percent increase, from 2013, of inappropriate force complaints.

Complaints spiked in September and remained higher than normal, an indication that the Mike Brown shooting, in Ferguson, Mo., encouraged more vigilant reporting of alleged police abuse.

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