The Pendleton Police Department made a great leap forward recently when it rolled out its new body camera policy.
Each of the city’s 24 sworn officers will be equipped with a camera that will record calls for service. Chief Stuart Roberts said the cameras will help with the preservation of evidence — clearly a critical element for law enforcement — but he also mentioned that the cameras will provide credibility.
That creditability is probably one of the most singular key elements to the body cameras. The body cameras will furnish the police with a real-time record that should cut through the fog during a routine pullover or a serious incident.
We live in a time when every action by government agencies — from law enforcement to the White House — is under unprecedented scrutiny. That is part of democracy, and most of us can understand the need. Still, too often second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking has muddled the context of a specific incident. A high-profile crime occurs, the police are involved, and then there is an arrest. From that point, the rhetoric machine gets spun up and soon the facts begin to fade into the background.
Chances are there will probably never be any type of serious, high-profile incident involving our local police force. After all, we live in a small community tucked into a relatively quiet corner of the state. But if an incident did occur, then the local police geared up with the body cams are going to have an instant record that can be used as a key piece in the total puzzle of a crime.
Statistics show that police body cams cut down on the unnecessary use of force and complaints against officers drop. That’s because the body cams provide that essential backup and, perhaps, a stabilizing force during a high-stress situation.
Best of all, though, the cameras work to enhance not only the job of the officer but also encourage confidence in the police.
The residents of Pendleton should feel a tremendous amount of assurance that their police are working diligently to do their jobs in the most effective and transparent manner. Transparency in a democracy is crucial to its success, even transparency in a small town in Eastern Oregon.
The body cams are a great idea. Kudos to the Pendleton police.