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Body Worn Cameras:  Impact and Implementation

Body Worn Cameras & the APD

Several years ago, the APD undertook a study of Body Worn Cameras (BWCs). The APD assessed reasons why police agencies might choose to use BWCs and reasons why BWCs might not make sense for certain agencies. We evaluated the front end costs of purchasing the hardware and software necessary to implement a BWC program, the ongoing costs of digital records storage, and long-term personnel costs related to training, as well as management and dissemination of BWC records. You can read the entire report:  Body Worn Camera Staff Study 2014. 

More importantly, the APD analysis focused on the problems that BWCs might help prevent or solve, and weighed this information against the real and potential costs of BWCs. In looking at the evidence available to us at that time, we learned BWCs are especially useful for police agencies that have a history of contentious police-citizen interactions, that have an extensive record of bias-based use of force or other bias-based police actions, or for police agencies that have community relations characterized by lack of confidence in the police or by high levels of distrust. For police agencies that face these sorts of problems, BWCs can enhance transparency and reduce the extraordinarily high costs of civil rights litigation or legal settlements based on discrimination.

In the process of weighing the possible benefits of BWCs against the potential downsides of their use, we realized the APD did not have a history of contentious relations with Arvada residents or other citizens, that we had very few use of force complaints involving allegations of bias of any kind, and that there was little to no evidence suggesting our residents lack confidence in or distrust the APD. It became clear that BWCs would not markedly improve the APD's relationship with our citizens, would not have a meaningful impact on the use of force situations, and would not substantially increase the degree of confidence citizens have in the APD's progressive policing strategies.

As a result, the APD concluded that BWCs were valuable tools for some, but not all, police agencies, and so we decided against the deployment of BWCs at that time. We pledged to informally reassess the need for BWCs over time. We have done that, and have not seen any evidence that has changed our decision.  

In 2020, the Colorado State Legislature created a new "Police Transparency" law, requiring all law enforcement agencies to fully implement the use of body-worn cameras by the year 2023. The Arvada Police Department has begun this process and will be fully compliant with Senate Bill 217 before 2023. Below is a breakdown of cost for equipment, staff, and data storage. 

Impact and implementation of the new mandate for all police officers in the state to wear body cameras.

Chart indicating costs of body worn cameras both initially and over a five year time frame.