Local News

Durham police nearing decision on body cameras

Posted May 8, 2015 3:09 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2015 6:58 a.m. EDT

— The Durham Police Department will hold the first of six public forums Monday for residents to learn more about privacy issues, protocol and the use of body cameras.

The public forums come at a time when policing issues and transparency are a part of a national conversation. Department officials say then want to make sure the public has a voice in the matter.

“I don't think we can escape the broader national discussion about policing issues and police community relations,” Deputy Chief Anthony Marsh said. “Our community has been great partners with us, however this particular technology is something that's going to really impact them.”

The department recently finished 90 days of testing on two different models of body cameras, and officials said there’s no guarantee that either model will make the cut. But the trial period has allowed them to get some insight into what does and doesn't work.

Marsh said the department expects to make a decision by the end of the summer on which body camera to use. Monday's public forum is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Durham Public Schools Staff Development Center, at 2107 Hillandale Road.

"It's just another tool in our tool belt to do our jobs better," he said. "The camera doesn't perceive, it doesn't think, feel or have an opinion. It just captures what's in front of it at that moment. For both the officer and the citizen, you have that third neutral observer."

Details also need to be worked out about how the cameras will be worn and used. But one rule has already been emphasized: Officers will not be allowed to alter the video in any way.

"I think the public wants that sense of security, and we want to provide that," Marsh said.

Alex Charns, an attorney who represents the family of Jesus Huerta, an 18-year-old who shot himself while handcuffed in a Durham patrol car, said he thinks body cameras are a good thing.

"It's long past due in Durham and other major American cities," he said. "It protects not only the public, but it will protect the officers. The citizen is protected against the false accusations of an assault on an officer, and the officer is protected against a false accusation of excessive force."

Charms also said it's important that video footage taken by body cameras be a matter of public record "so the press can receive them and the public can get a hold of them."