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‘Positive for transparency’: Bend police say officer body cameras have been a success

(Update: Adding video, comments from Bend PD, DA's office)

Department's chief challenge has been large volume of video evidence

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- In April of last year, Bend city councilors approved a five-year, $1 million contract for police body cameras.

Bend police officers began using them in June, and nearly 10 months later, Captain Jason Maniscalco says they’ve been a success.

“A positive change but a significant change that they’ve had to adapt too,” Maniscalco said Wednesday.

He said it helps add transparency to police activities. 

“Well, obviously we have more evidence,” Maniscalco said. ”Most of our interactions with the public are recorded, so that’s a positive thing. It’s positive for transparency,”.

He said it’s helped the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office by providing more evidence.

District Attorney John Hummel shared a note with NewsChannel 21 from a deputy district attorney that he said "summarizes the impact of body-worn camera evidence on the work of my office":

"They have become a vital piece of evidence. I would argue many of my DUII cases have resolved because the body cameras assist in demonstrating just how intoxicated somebody is; I think many cases are strengthened by the body camera videos in other ways as well. In addition, they have helped me make charging decisions and I have, at times, declined to file charges based on body cameras. They are by no means conclusive, but a great addition to the puzzle pieces that we have to fit together when trying a case."

Maniscalco said one problem they’re running into is managing all the recorded video files.

“Well, some of the significance of the challenges have to do with the amount of evidence we’re receiving,” Maniscalco said.

The Bend Police Department has 109 body cameras used by all of its officers.

Over the past 10 months, close to 53,000 videos have been recorded and processed into evidence.

Unused footage, from something like a routine traffic stop, will be deleted after one year.

For footage used as evidence, it depends on the case.  

Maniscalco told NewsChannel 21: 

“ORS 133.741 deals directly with Body-Worn Cameras. The language in this statute indicates we must keep BWC video for at least 180 days, but no more than 30 months for a recording not related to a court proceeding or ongoing criminal investigation, or related to statute of limitations (see statute for exact wording). 

We currently hold BWC videos for at least 180 days. The statute of limitations in Oregon is complex, and we are routinely evaluating the best way to determine how to ensure BWC videos are removed from the system at the 30-month requirement, while ensuring we do not delete video that is needed for court or required to be retained per statute.”

Maniscalsco, a 22-year-veteran of the police force, said it’s been an adjustment for some officers, adding the steps of turning the camera on and informing the people at an incident.

However, he said, most people encourage it.

“We haven’t had a lot of push-back from the public. I think it’s overwhelmingly positive,” Maniscalco said. 

While it’s been useful in a number of cases, he wanted to emphasize the body cams cannot capture everything.

“It may not be where the officer is looking at the time, but it’s where the camera’s pointing," Maniscalco said. "It does give a snapshot, but it doesn’t tell the entire story."

Article Topic Follows: Bend

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.


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