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Report shows rocky body camera rollout for Denver deputies

Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins says his deputies faced a learning curve, but says things have improved
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Posted at 6:10 PM, Apr 17, 2024

DENVER — A new report shows Denver Sheriff Department (DSD) deputies ran into big problems amid their body camera rollout last year.

While many law enforcement agencies were required under state law to issue body cameras to their officers, as part of a state law passed in 2020, DSD wasn’t required to.

The state law exempted jail deputies if they worked in a facility already equipped with video cameras.

But Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins said his department voluntarily issued body cameras to its deputies as a way to increase transparency.

“We voluntarily wanted to implement body-worn cameras,” said Diggins. “I personally believe that it is the best technology that has been introduced to law enforcement in the 30 years that I have been with the Sheriff's Department.”

As head of Denver’s Citizen Oversight Board, Julia Richman’s job is to help hold the city’s law enforcement agencies accountable.

She says body cameras are one way to do that.

“Body cams don't change the behavior of deputies or officers, but they do provide a tool for the public to get firsthand insight with their own eyes into the behavior of commissioned officers in a city,” said Richman.

But a report from the Office of the Independent Monitor, the city’s civilian oversight agency, shows DSD deputies didn’t follow department policy when it came to their body cams.

"Unfortunately, the expectations, the training clarity around sort of the process for rolling these out was not particularly good,” said Richman.

The independent monitor says there was a 268 percent increase in internal complaints at DSD from 2022 to 2023.

The report said this was largely driven by deputies reporting other deputies for violating the department’s body camera policy.

“So maybe a manager or a leader of a group had asked a deputy to turn on the camera or noticed that a deputy didn't have a camera on their body,” Richman explained.

Denver7 asked Diggins why his department had so many problems.

"There was a period of time where deputies had to get used to wearing this brand-new technology in our environment,” Diggins said. "I call it the learning curve that comes with introducing something like this."

Report shows rocky body camera rollout for Denver deputies

Diggins said his jail deputies must turn on their body cameras more often than officers patrolling the streets.

“Activating their body-worn camera is higher than a police officer or a sheriff's deputy on the street. Meaning they have a lot more interactions with people that require the launching of the body-worn camera,” said Diggins.

Despite the hiccups with the rollout, he says things have improved in recent months as deputies became more familiar with the rules.

"Deputies are now used to wearing their body-worn cameras,” said Diggins. “I believe that they believe that it is a technology that helps them to explain what happens to them on a daily basis.”

Richman agrees things have improved at DSD.

She hopes things will keep moving in the right direction.

“It remains to be seen how well that will go this year,” said Richman. “We'll keep our eye out for that."

 


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