The Vancouver Police Department is on track to receive $1.5 million in federal funds to support a new body and dashboard camera program for its officers.
The funding – secured in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill for the 2022 fiscal year – will go toward purchasing 250 body-worn cameras and 100 vehicle cameras.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, serves on the House Appropriations Committee. She touted the new funding in a media release Monday.
“Our police officers can use these tools to more safely and effectively protect citizens, and doing so will provide additional transparency to our community,” Herrera Beutler said. “I was pleased to advocate for this funding that will aid officers and support the protection and well-being of the Vancouver community.”
Jeff Anaya, a member of the union that represents the rank-and-file of the police department, the Vancouver Police Officer’s Guild, called body cameras “the future of police transparency, accountability and documentation.”
“Use of body cameras will show the public firsthand the professionalism, compassion, and dedication Vancouver police officers display during the course of their duty to the community every single day,” Anaya said.
Public scrutiny of the Vancouver Police Department intensified after officers shot four people in 2019, leading the department to seek an independent assessment from a third-party organization, the Police Executive Research Forum.
The report released after the assessment in June 2020 included 84 recommended changes to the department’s training and protocols, including adoption of a camera program. Vancouver appointed a Community Task Force on Policing to oversee adoption of the report’s recommendations.
In February, the Vancouver City Council decided to fast-track the camera program, asking the task force to prioritize the implementation of that high-profile piece in the short term over the other reforms already being considered.
“The lack of movement on body-worn cameras is seriously impacting our credibility in the community, and I don’t think you can put a price tag on that,” City Councilor Erik Paulsen said at the time.
The new federal money will supplement local resources already earmarked from Vancouver’s general fund. The city allocated $3 million for police reform – including cameras – in its current biennial budget.
City leaders solicited requests for proposals from potential camera, training and data storage vendors in May. They plan to launch a fully fledged camera program no later than next spring.
“The police camera program is a critical recommendation from the Community Task Force on Policing that will enhance safety and transparency for both the public and the Vancouver Police Department,” Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said in Monday’s statement.
“The city is pleased to partner with (Rep.) Herrera Beutler to make this investment in local law enforcement, which will provide them with the tools necessary to build public trust while keeping all of our communities safe.”
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is also working toward a camera program for its deputies, with a phased rollout of 150 body-worn and dash cams planned for later this year.