SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC4 News) – The funding for Unified Police Department’s body cameras is running out. So what happens next?
It’s up to the police board.
The Unified Police Department was awarded a grant in 2015 by the Department of Justice, but the grant is set to expire.
In 2017, 125 of Unified’s 410 officers were outfitted with body cameras. To date, the department has spent $494,383 dollars of its body camera program. Of that amount, $348,000 was paid by Unified and $146,000 was paid for by the grant.
Going forward, if every police officer were to have a body camera, it would cost $455,000 a year and a current continuation for the cameras is around $154,000 a year. Anything in between would depend on the number of cameras UPD would use.
So what does this all mean?
Unified’s police board has the option to figure out where to get the funding for the cameras or nix them altogether.
“What we said is it’s an option to the board,” explained Salt Lake County Sheriff, Rosie Rivera at Wednesday night’s meeting with the board of directors. “They can either approve the budget that I request for body cameras, approve it to expand the body cameras, or do nothing when the grant runs out and we don’t have body cameras.”
It’s something Rivera says she doesn’t want to happen.
“The relationship between the police and the public has to get better. As a society, it’s not getting any better. It’s actually going the wrong direction. So anything we can do to build that public trust and bring more transparency to law enforcement, I’m supportive of,” said Unified’s top cop.
Dozens of residents echoed that same sentiment to the board.
Gina Thayne was one of them. Her nephew was shot and killed by a Salt Lake City Police officer. The case was ruled justified.
“He was one of the first people recorded on a body cam. As horrific as it is to be a family member of someone that it killed by a police officer and you have to see that, I have a lot of faith in the body cams because I believe it brings out dignity or lack of dignity on both sides. Dillon Taylor was never able to have a voice or say what happened, but the footage says a million words”
The Salt Lake Tribune reported the following statement: “Since Unified Police started using cameras, there have been more than 1,600 cases of use of force; 23 of those have resulted in complaints with seven involving body camera footage. All officers in those cases were cleared.” ABC4’s Brittany Johnson asked Rivera about that statement.
“Out of those 23, only seven had body cameras. All seven cleared the officers. The other 16 didn’t have body cameras but were addressed through our complaint process. The reason our use of force sounds like we have a lot is because of the way we document use of force which is different than many other agencies. If we pull out our gun, we document it, if we point a taser at someone if we use a K9 — not have a K9 bite somebody, just use a K9 to bark, that’s a use of force. Anything other than routine handcuffing is considered use of force.”