Crutcher Attorneys Criticize TPD For Lack Of Body Cameras

<p>In the Terence Crutcher shooting, three angles were recorded - two from cars and one from a helicopter - but there could have been three or four more.</p>

Tuesday, September 20th 2016, 6:16 pm

Dashcams and bodycams help officers record every minute of a traffic stop or an arrest, but only if the officer has them.

The Tulsa Police Department was awarded a $600,000 grant to buy body cameras, but one year later, is still deciding what to buy.

The department has previously said it hoped to deploy the first cameras in 2017.

If the department had purchased the cameras, there might have been three or four more camera angles of the Terence Crutcher shooting, including one from the officer who fired the fatal shot.

The video that exists of the shooting was from the dash camera on a responding patrol car and from the police helicopter; it doesn't show everything that happened, but enough to raise plenty of questions about exactly what officers saw.

Special Coverage: Terrence Crutcher Police Shooting

Tuesday, the attorneys for the Crutcher family criticized the police officers for not activating their cameras, but, in fact, no Tulsa officers have cameras on their uniforms.

Attorney Benjamin Crump said "When you have an interaction with citizens, when you draw weapons, you make sure those body cams are on and the audio is working, because we could have heard everything that transpired simply if the officers had followed what I believe is the protocol and turn on the body cams.  Why else have them?"

Many smaller departments surrounding Tulsa have cameras on their officers, including Tahlequah, Muskogee and Sand Springs. All have solved problems with records retention and data storage that Tulsa's department has previously said was a major challenge to using the technology with so many more officers.

Many Tulsa police cars have cameras on the dashboard, and it was those cameras that recorded the ground level scenes of the Crutcher shooting.

In September 2015, Tulsa was awarded a $600,000 grant from the Department of Justice to start buying cameras. The grant requires local match and a city spokesperson said Tuesday that money is available from funds that would otherwise be used to replace and maintain dash cameras.

9/22/2015 Related Story: Tulsa Police Get Grant For Body-Worn Cameras

The officer who fired the fatal shot had a dash cam in her car, but it wasn't recording at the time.

Tulsa Police say the camera recording is triggered by the officer activating the top mounted emergency lights, but in this case, Officer Shelby had activated only the flashing lights to warn traffic behind her to use caution.

City bid documents issued over the summer for the cameras state the initial purchase will be 100 cameras, with the anticipation 100 additional units would be purchased over each of the next four years, with the eventual total of 500 cameras for the department. 

While the department has yet to select a vendor, the federal grant requires the money to be used by September 2017.


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