HAC 2-16-16
Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston shows a video from an officer's body camera during Tuesday night's Hermiston Hispanic Advisory Committee meeting.

[quote style=”2″]Hermiston Police Chief Extolls Virtues of Body Cameras[/quote]

When it comes to body cameras for his officers, Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston is all for them.

Edmiston addressed the issue of body cameras and other aspects of the department during a presentation Tuesday night before the Hermiston Hispanic Advisory Committee.

“Not all departments want them,” the chief said. “Our officers wanted them. They saw safety in having them.”

Currently, there are 15 body cameras in use among the department’s patrol officers. Edmiston said the cameras provide an accurate picture of interaction between officers in the public. The chief showed the committee a video from an officer’s body camera taken during an incident not too long ago.

He said the video came in handy when a woman witnessed the interaction from a distance and believed she saw the officers banging the individual’s head against the wall, and later described to the chief what she thought were officers kicking the man in the head. She was about to go to the media, but decided to confront the chief first.

The video shows an officer talking to a homeless man who was sleeping on the sidewalk across from Hermiston City Hall. The man became belligerent and flicked a lit cigarette at the officer. A second officer’s body camera captured what happened next.

As the first officer began handcuffing the man, the suspect began violently banging his head against the wall. The video clearly shows the officers pulling the man’s head back from the wall. He then began to tussle with the officers and was taken to the ground where he then began banging his forehead on the sidewalk. The video then clearly shows another officer placing his foot between the man’s head and the ground to prevent him from further hurting himself.

After the chief played the video for the witness, he said she became emotional and apologetic to him.

Edmiston described another incident in which a parent complained to him about how her son was treated during an interaction with an officer. Edmiston looked at the video and agreed with the parent that the officer could have done a better job handling the teen.

“We know we’re not going to get it right all the time and we know we’re going to make mistakes,” he said. “But we hope to give our officers the tools to mitigate the mistakes.”

Edmiston said the department keeps all videos for more than 190 days (state law requires them to be kept for a minimum of 180 days). He also said officers do not the ability to delete videos from cameras.

The department has signed a 5-year contract with Taser to provide the department with cameras at a cost of about $71,000 (grant money was used to help pay for the cameras). The company will trade out the cameras for new ones after the first two and a half years, and again at the end of the contract if the department chooses to extend the contract.