Phoenix City Council Approves Purchase of 2,000 Police Body Cameras

The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday voted in favor of a $5.7 million expansion of the local police department’s body-worn camera program.

The 7-to-1 vote approves a contract to purchase 2,000 body worn cameras for Phoenix police officers. As part of a pilot program, the Phoenix Police Department currently deploys 300 body cameras on officers around the city.

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The vote also approves 21 new positions in the police department and city prosecutor’s office to help administer the program. The new positions will cost an estimated $1.6 million.

Council member Jim Waring, who has previously raised questions about the costs of buying cameras versus hiring new officers, was the sole “no” vote.

Prior to the vote, activists spoke in favor of body cameras, while demanding strict policies for the transparency program.

Paris Wallace asked that footage of shootings be available to the families of victims within 48 hours, and that officers give a verbal statement before turning their cameras off. Maria Sanchez spoke against a proposal by the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) — the union representing local cops — that officers wearing cameras receive a raise.

City Manager Ed Zuercher confirmed during the meeting that PLEA has asked for 5 percent raises for any officers wearing cameras during ongoing union negotiations.

Several of the public speakers at Wednesday’s meeting were affiliated with Poder in Action, a community group that has been critical of Phoenix police officers’ use of force. The Phoenix Police Department made national headlines last year for having the highest rate of police shootings among large cities in the United States.

The new cameras will come from Axon, a law enforcement hardware company best known for making Tasers. According to Police Chief Jeri Williams, the cameras will come with auto-activation capabilities to help ensure that critical moments are caught on video.