Durham County

Durham Police chief: Fewer complaints with body cameras

Durham police chief touts body-worn cameras

Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis talks about officers' reactions to body-worn cameras.
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Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis talks about officers' reactions to body-worn cameras.

Citizen complaints about police have dropped since officers started wearing body-worn cameras, says Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis.

Over the past year, the Police Department has issued 470 body cameras among its roughly 500 sworn officers, completing the roll out, Davis said.

There have been fewer citizen and use-of-force complaints, Davis said during her quarterly crime report to the City Council on Monday night.

The Police Department didn’t respond to a request Tuesday for specific statistics on complaints.

In an email to City Manager Tom Bonfield, Davis said there is no specific report that shows numbers, “but citizen complaints in general are down.”

“We have not made a clear distinction as to the impact (body-worn cameras) have on the number of use of force complaints, i.e. whether the (body-worn cameras) is the reason (use of force) cases are down,” Davis wrote.

About a year ago, the City Council approved a $1.4 million, five-year contract to purchase 530 cameras and related equipment and services from Vievu LLC.

Some officers were apprehensive about the cameras, Davis said, but they have come to appreciate them.

“They appreciate that the body cameras help not just them pay attention to their posture, their behavior, but it also helps the citizen realize this incident is being recorded,” she said. “Hopefully the body cameras have sort of imposed a calming mechanism by way of recording incidents.”

The cameras haven’t come without challenges.

About 25 percent of the cameras have had issues, Davis said.

The issues appear to center on a component that allows the camera to record about 30 seconds before the officer turns it on. The component drains the battery, Davis said.

“We felt like that was really a critical component to be able to see what occurred prior to officer turning his camera on,” Davis said.

The company that sold the cameras to the city has been responsive, Davis said. The next generation of cameras will be given to the city at no cost.

Six incidents recorded on cameras have been referred to the department’s internal affairs unit. The referrals relate to when the cameras were turned on, Davis said.

So far, there has only been one request to review the camera footage following a K9 bite, Davis wrote in the email to city officials, but the incident occurred before the K-9 Unit was issued cameras.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges