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Arizona prosecutor: Body-cam footage presents challenges to police work

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — Police body-cam footage has been presenting challenges for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

The main challenges, according to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, were storage and viewing time.

He said some Valley departments were using a file-share program for themselves and his office. And that’s causing lots of issues.

“Total videos received equate to a total data size of over one terabyte,” he said. “Viewing time (is) roughly 413 and a half hours. That’s just to watch it once.”

Montgomery also said storing the footage was taking up a lot of computer hard-drive space. As many as 14 Valley police departments are participating in the file-sharing program.

A lack of storage and space and time are not the only obstacles being faced by the Tempe Police Department.

The city’s body camera policy for police officers says that an officer should turn on the camera when practical to capture as much evidence of an incident as possible. Back in July, Tempe Police Lt. Edward Ouimette did not turn on the body camera before he fatally shot Dalvin Hollins, a case that gained media attention.

Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said she hoped the shooting would have been recorded, but said sometimes officers don’t have the muscle memory to turn on the camera when it is most needed.

“Our policy allows for some human lapse when we are engaged in a crisis like a foot pursuit or a vehicle pursuit,” Moir said. “I think that has to remain.”

For those advocating an entire police officer’s shift be recorded, Moir said there are privacy issues if the body camera records everything, and it can erode trust.

“We encounter people typically when they’re at their worst, or they’ve be victimized or they’re at a point of crisis,” Moir said. “Why would we want to consider filming them at that point?”

She said starting next month, officer training will stress to officers the importance of turning on the camera to capture an incident.

“For tragedies like the encounter between Mr. Hollins and our Lt. Ouimette, that would be captured with greater probability as we address some of the training issues related to body-worn cameras,” Moir said.

Still, Moir said the body camera policy needs to be strengthened, but doesn’t believe body-worn cameras are the only answer.

“It’s one part of a larger social-endeavor to continue to strengthen  the trust between the police and the community,” Moir said.

KTAR’s Mike Sackley contributed to this report.

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