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Oct. 24, 2021

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Vancouver, police union agree on camera policy, pay raise

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Vancouver police officers will welcome 2022 with a 2 percent raise in pay. The increase was part of a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Vancouver Police Officers’ Guild approved Monday by the city council.

The purpose of the memorandum of understanding was to create a policy for a comprehensive police camera program. The policy defines the purpose of the camera program, required training, officers’ responsibilities, when to record and when to stop or when recording is prohibited, how and how long to store recordings, when to grant public access, and whether recordings can be used as evidence in criminal and civil investigations, among other things.

Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain said the memorandum of understanding resulted from prior negotiations between the city and the police guild.

“This was a topic that was on the bargaining table at the last negotiations and the city had removed it,” McElvain said. “Although the guild was not obligated to come back to the table, they agreed to develop a policy around operating the cameras and they also negotiated an increase in pay.”

The call for better transparency and accountability for Vancouver police 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. Earlier this year, the city council decided to fast-track the camera program.

According to the policy, body cameras are “a valuable tool for promoting transparency in law enforcement,” especially by recording interactions between officers and members of the public when “incidents of use of force or negative interaction” are most likely to occur.

The department will need the policy in place when it rolls out a 60-day pilot program for police cameras next month, or possibly November. McElvain said the pilot program will include 10 body-worn cameras with up to 10 patrol vehicles having cameras, as well.

After the pilot program concludes, the city will decide whether to continue with its current vendor or select a new vendor, McElvain said.

Although the city has budgeted $3 million to pay for the cameras, the Vancouver Police Department is hoping to receive $1.5 million in federal funds to help cover those costs. The city plans to have body cameras and vehicle cameras in the field by the end of March.

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