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MCSO Sheriff Penzone confident body cameras will help Phoenix police

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – On the day the Phoenix Police Department flips the switch on officer body cameras in the last precinct to get them, another local law enforcement agency boss said the videos will be an aid to patrol work.

“I was cautious at first,” Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Monday about his deputies wearing body cameras, which were introduced more than three years ago.

But now, he said, “We have seen that it helps our deputies recognize the heightened level of accountability, so they’re better at their job.”

Federal courts mandated the agency gear up its patrol deputies and supervisors with body cameras.

“Oftentimes when we’re accused of things, we’re able to go to the video and show how it was perceived was not actually how it occurred,” Penzone said.

“We’re able to clear a lot of deputies in investigations where they received complaints.”

The camera rollout at the police department’s Black Mountain Precinct on Cave Creek Road near Carefree Highway will finish a project that began in April.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams’ officers will have more than 1,200 cameras to work with. They can record for 12 straight hours.

A team of 30 will review it periodically.

Penzone said his staff doesn’t wait for complaints to review video.

“We have a whole division. They do random audits on a regular basis.”

Sergeants in the field are required to review video from deputies “during the course of a shift,” he said.

But for all the resources, money and time spent on the cameras, Penzone admitted the public has become suspicious when there is no video of an incident.

“We’re talking about technology, which can fail,” Penzone, a former Phoenix sergeant, said.

“We’re talking about humans, who, under duress, can either be forgetful or think they switched it on when actually they didn’t …

“(If) the camera isn’t active, now we don’t get a benefit of doubt. There’s this expectation … that we had some purpose for not turning the camera on, which, the majority of the time, is not the case.”

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