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Oklahoma City officers hope to have body cameras in use by January

OKLAHOMA CITY - After months of disagreements between the police union and the Oklahoma City Police Department, police body cameras are headed back to the streets of Oklahoma City.

“We spent a lot of hours on this, to get a policy in place that we think is really accountable to the public for transparency and also to management and to protect our officers,” said John George, President of the Fraternal Order of Police.

The new body camera agreement defines when officers are required to activate the cameras, the number of audits and when the video could be reviewed by police management.

Those were the three main sticking points between the union and police department.

“We have to be able to hold the officers accountable for not turning the cameras on. That's been an issue across the country. One of the things that happens is a lot of agencies don't have policies and procedures in place and, if they don't have those expectations, it's very difficult for an agency to hold an officer accountable for not having turned the camera on when they are supposed to. The public expects for them to be on,” said Chief Bill Citty with the Oklahoma City Police Department.

Officials said the agreement clearly outlines the expectations for officers using the cameras.

Under the agreement, officers must turn on the camera:

  • During voluntary contact with people in public places
  • Before detaining someone or using force
  • Before getting out of their patrol car on high priority calls
  • During a chase or sobriety test
  • When asked by a supervisor in other situations

They cannot turn on the cameras:

  • When interviewing victims
  • When there is an expectation of privacy
  • Or in a healthcare facility

The reaction from those in the community has been positive.

Many criticized the cameras being taken off the streets in the first place.

“We are looking forward to this implementation being a very positive thing for Oklahoma City and for the community,” said Sheree Wilkerson with Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City.

“We have a long way to go being able to trust that law enforcement is always doing the right thing and law enforcement being able to trust citizens. Body cameras are an important part in that process. You're not going to solve every issue, but they give us an opportunity to help make training more effective and also to help citizens see accountability and see trust in police and be able to act accordingly,” said Brady Henderson with the ACLU.

“We don't think body cameras will change everything, but it does give us an additional tool to get justice for all and to have compassion on both sides and accountability on both sides,” said Grace Franklin with Artists for Justice.

The department already has 100 cameras from the pilot program.

Those cameras will be taken out of storage and issued evenly throughout the department based on seniority.

Officers will have to be pulled off the streets to get training on using the cameras and learn the new policy in the next week or two.

Citty is hoping to have cameras back on the streets before January, something local civil rights leader said is long overdue.

“We are considered the Sooner State. We should have done this before now. But, now that we are here, I think it's a good move. I think we are on the right track in the right direction,” said Garland Pruitt with the NACCP Oklahoma City Branch.

“We are being proactive, and we were doing things about a problem that is tearing up cities nationwide. Doesn't mean all of us come together and agree about everything, but it means we have the capability to have a conversation to have a dialogue to make things better,” Henderson said.

The department recently received a grant that will add 180 additional cameras to the program.