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Citizens demand body cams as police, union haggle

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A newly-approved grant should make it possible for every officer in the department to wear a body camera, but an agreement is keeping those cameras off the streets.

The Oklahoma City Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police still can't agree on camera policies.

It's been more than three months since officers have worn them.

At Tuesday's city council meeting, members of the public spoke up to say it's time to make a deal.

"It's well past time," said Rev. T. Sheri Dickinson, director of Oklahoma City's Black Lives Matter movement. "It's a win-win for everyone, if they can just go ahead and put them on and turn them on."

But, it hasn't been that easy.

The police chief and union president concede the sides have more or less reached an impasse.

At the last meeting, body cameras were hardly mentioned.

"I understand their frustration, and I have the same frustrations," said Chief Bill Citty. "We have the cameras. We've hired four additional people to manage that system. They're still on the payroll. It's one of those things where, yeah, the body-worn cameras are a significant issue."

The city already has about 100 cameras, Citty said.

New grants make it possible to add about 100 more - enough to outfit every officer who needs one.

FOP President John George wants to see those cameras in use as soon as possible.

"They need to be out there now," he told NewsChannel 4 last week. "I don't want to see something happen. I'm afraid something will happen, and a camera would have been a benefit."

He said the union made OCPD a "reasonable offer" but concedes many of the sticking points remain the same.

The two groups can't agree when officers should activate the cameras and who should be able to look at the footage.

"We don't want the big brother, nitpicking mentality," George said. "We want officers to be able to do their jobs, and we want the cameras to serve the purpose they were designed for."

Citty, meanwhile, wants access to footage whenever he deems necessary, not just following a complaint.

"If I can't hold an officer accountable for not turning their camera on, then it makes it pretty difficult for me to manage those," he said. "The bottom line is the department has to manage it. The FOP doesn't answer to you, they don't answer to the public when things go wrong, why an officer didn't do this or why an officer didn't do that."

The FOP said there are no meetings planned between the two groups.

An arbitrator would settle the dispute if the two sides can't work things out.