Tulsa Police Get Grant For Body-Worn Cameras

Tuesday, September 22nd 2015, 12:38 pm
By: News On 6

The Tulsa Police Department will receive more than a half million dollars for bodycams through a Justice Department grant. A Just Department matching grant means TPD will soon have a camera on every officer on patrol. 

With these federal funds, Tulsa Police will be able to take their exiting technology - dash cams - a step up to body cameras. The department said this is its way of showing it has nothing to hide.

As Sergeant Clay Ballenger, president of Tulsa's Fraternal Order of Police, will tell you nearly every police officer has wished for a body camera at some point.

"It's always good to have some kind of evidence to back up what we're doing out here," Ballenger said.

Thanks to the federal grant, TPD officers will soon have that back up. Right now, the department is looking at 10 different body camera vendors.     It will narrow those down - and test the best products - hopefully sometime in December. It hopes to choose one by next year, but an actual launch date for the body cameras is still up in the air.

"It's hard to say a target date when we'll start seeing every Tulsa police officer with a body-worn camera, but I will say it is coming," said Officer Leland Ashley, Tulsa Police.

And officers are looking forward to it.

According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, body cameras reduced the number of police use-of-force incidents at a California police department by about 64 percent.

And the number of complaints filed by citizens went down 92 percent.

That's why smaller departments like Muskogee and Tahlequah got on board over a year ago. But the struggle for Tulsa Police was paying for all the equipment.

8/4/2014 Related Story: Muskogee Police To Get High Tech Body-Worn Cameras

"Although some departments have had this for quite some time, I wouldn't say we're necessarily behind - budgeting is always an issue with anything we do," said Sgt. Clay Ballenger, Tulsa FOP president.

With this grant, though, TPD is closer than ever to getting that technology.

"Everyone should know - this won't be the end all, be all, but we do believe it will be a step forward with transparency," Officer Leland Ashley said.

The FOP and Tulsa Police say the next step is come up with a policy that  outlines when and where officers will have their body cameras on and when they'll be turned off for privacy.

The grant for TPD is part of a nationwide $23.2 million awarded to 73 agencies in 32 states to expand the use of body-worn cameras by local and tribal police. The nation-wide grants include $19.3 million to purchase bodycams, $2 million for training and $1.9 million to examine the impact of their use, according to U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr., Northern District of Oklahoma.

“The Justice Department is committed to supporting the safety of law enforcement officers who protect our communities," Williams said.

The DOJ said body-worn cameras have been shown to increase public safety, reduce crime and improve the public trust between police and citizens they serve. 

The grants require a 50/50 match, and the long-term costs will be the responsibility of TPD.