Responding to Legislature, Centralia Police Chief Recommends City Purchase Body and Vehicle Cameras

Outfitting Police Force Could Cost Upwards of $350,000

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EARLY ESTIMATES: Outfitting Police Force Could Cost Upwards of $350,000

 

Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham is recommending the city purchase cameras for its vehicles and police officers following recently-passed state legislation that will affect the way city police forces interrogate and interact with the public.

The cost could be between $300,000 and $350,000 over the next five years to outfit the department’s 27 officers, not including additional staffing or resources that the department might need, the chief said.

Denham gave a legislative update to the Centralia City Council on Tuesday night and reviewed soon-to-be laws that would likely impact the city and its police department. Most of their information came to them from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and word from other chiefs, he said.

Among the legislation passed, House Bill 1223 would require all juveniles to be both audio and video recorded when they’re interrogated by police, regardless of location or time, Denham said, and adults would be at a minimum audio recorded.

HB 1223 was delivered to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk by the state Legislature on April 22, though he hasn’t yet signed it. If signed, the law would go into effect Jan. 1 of next year, Denham said, and would be an “unfunded mandate.”

The bill, Denham said, effectively requires body cameras in order to stay in compliance without explicitly saying so.

“So, to ensure we follow the law, in my opinion, it’s important, necessary and almost required to purchase in-car cameras and body-worn cameras. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to truly capture any kind of interrogation,” Denham told the council.

The Centralia police chief’s suggestion signals a larger pattern of police forces moving to implement electronic surveillance devices for use during interactions, mostly sparked by police accountability legislation.

Last year, Pierce County moved to implement body and car cameras for its deputies working in the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. In March, the city of Tacoma completed implementation of more than 257 body-worn cameras to its department.

Speaking with The Chronicle after the meeting, Denham agreed that this is very much a broader trend that departments are experiencing.

“I’ve always liked body cams. The legislation has sort of pushed us in that direction to follow the new laws that are coming out. You need cameras on all the time, and we’re sort of just getting ahead of the game,” he said.

The police department is still fairly early in its researching phase, Denham said. But once they know which cameras they’d like to purchase, he said he’ll bring a bid proposal to the city manager and it will likely come before the city council for consideration within the next couple months.

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Eric Rosane reports on city government and education. He can be reached at ericr@chronline.com.

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