Pendleton police will finally get body cameras.
The department received a grant from the United States Department of Justice to help pay for the equipment. Police Chief Stuart Roberts said he estimated the program will cost $70,000 and the grant pays for half.
“There were 12 grants awarded, and we received one of them,” he said. “I’m pretty surprised that we were successful given the level of competition.”
He explained the federal agency earlier this year opened the grants to smaller departments for the first time and defined smaller as agencies with 250 or fewer sworn officers. Pendleton has about two dozen.
Hermiston and some other local agencies have body cam systems. Roberts has cited cost as the primary obstacle to Pendleton officers donning the devices and the Pendleton Police Department has no money in its budget this year for cams. Roberts said the grant gives the department until 2021 to have its camera program up and running, and he will seek the matching funds in next year’s budget.
The grant requires plenty of other steps. Pendleton must submit policies on body cams to the justice department for approval. Roberts said the department has been working on that piece for a while. He also will have to talk to the city council about body cams, likely at a work session. And the department has to educate Pendleton residents about police use of the cameras.
Roberts said the department may hold some public meetings and update its website with information on the cams.
“Hopefully we’ll get it all knocked out in a year,” he said.
The justice department also required the chief to undergo education and training on the grant. Roberts said he had two options: spend two days in class in Washington, D.C., or hours and hours in front of a computer completing modules online. He took the latter.
“I’m just glad to have that in my rear-view mirror,” he said.
The most significant remaining question is how to store all the digital data police body cams can generate. Some companies offer storage at a cost of $500 per officer each year, which Roberts said was too expensive, and large data servers costs several thousand dollars each. The department at least has the time to find a solution.