It is rare when elected officials face a clear-cut, black-and-white decision but the Pendleton City Council will face one Tuesday when it ponders an initiative to purchase body cameras for the police department.
The council should carefully consider a bid from an Arizona company to supply the body cameras, and then approve the move.
The details of the move are straightforward. To furnish body cams, software, hardware and data storage, Axon of Scottsdale will charge the city a little more than $27,000 for the first year of service. Part of the cost will be covered by a $31,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, but Pendleton is still required to come up with another $31,000 for the venture.
Chief Stuart Roberts supports the move and the council should too. While there is a lot of debate about the usefulness of body cameras for police, the bottom line is such devices provide our law enforcement personnel with a valued tool. Body cameras furnish police with yet another fail-safe when they face a dangerous situation and, later, their actions are reviewed.
Body cameras allow a degree of oversight and transparency that is often not available to taxpayers and their elected representatives. They also provide police departments who are doing their job right a ready and useful outlet to show they acted appropriately during a crisis. That is no small matter. Our democratic system is one that not only demands accountability of its police but also tends to delve into every detail of a high-profile situation where police are compelled to use force. With a body camera, the actions of our police personnel are there to see, in real time. A police department that elects to utilize body cameras sends a message it is, indeed, ready to protect and serve, that it is not above the law and is confident in its policies and procedures.
Roberts and the rest of his department should get more than their fair share of praise on this move. It is a signal that Pendleton PD desires to be transparent and is willing to take the steps necessary to ensure that occurs. A department that chooses such a course of action illustrates it sees itself as a valued member of the community.
The city council shouldn’t spend more than the necessary time to review this move, and then it should give it the green light.