Moscow Police Department officers will soon wear body cameras, pending city council approval.

All three members of the Moscow City Council Public Works/Finance Committee recommended Monday that body-worn cameras be purchased and used by officers.

Moscow police have vehicle-mounted cameras, but officers do not wear body cameras.

The full council will consider the matter at its meeting, 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

If the council approves the cameras, City Supervisor Gary Riedner said they can be purchased as soon as this year.

“We are prepared to launch this as soon as you’d like,” Riedner said.

The estimated upfront cost is $130,000, which includes $64,000 to buy 32 cameras, $50,000 for annual digital storage and $16,000 for licensing, software and technical services, according to a memo from Riedner to Mayor Bill Lambert and the city council.

Thirty of the cameras, which Riedner said have a lifespan of three years, would be worn by officers and two would be saved in case a camera malfunctions or breaks.

The ongoing annual cost of the cameras would be $153,000, which includes $4,000 to replace and repair two damaged cameras, $20,000 to replace one-third of the camera inventory, $8,000 for licensing, software and technical services, $50,000 for digital storage and $71,000 for additional personnel to perform records management services.

Riedner called the cameras Monday an “expensive proposition.”

He said Moscow police have employed a community policing philosophy for more than 25 years and city staff have discussed the implementation of body-worn cameras for the better part of 10 years.

“It has been working well,” Riedner said of community policing. “We are extremely fortunate to have the level of professionalism that we have in the police department and it’s not at all an issue to have additional transparency. Our reluctance to launch this program in the past has not been a case of anything except it is a big budget piece.”

MPD Chief James Fry said staff is researching what types of situations the cameras would be used.

Riedner wrote in the memo that cameras would provide additional evidence in cases, enhance transparency of contacts between officers and community members and increase accountability of all parties to a law enforcement contact.

The city solicited a body-worn camera proposal from Watch Guard, the same vendor which provides the vehicle-mounted cameras in use by Moscow police, according to the memo. The Watch Guard body-worn camera system is fully integrated and compatible with the vehicle camera system and would employ the same remote download of data to the city’s digital storage.

Riedner said the cameras would lead to increased curating and digital management of the body camera recordings. It is anticipated the increased records management would require a full-time position in the police department or city attorney’s office, the memo stated.

Riedner told the committee that perhaps part-time personnel’s hours could be expanded to complete the work but that the city would not know how personnel would be affected until several months into the implementation of the cameras.

Councilor Gina Taruscio said the cameras are necessary and would be beneficial for officers and the public.

“I don’t love budgeting with a wiggle room of $71,000 dollars at all,” said Taruscio, noting the estimated cost to fund personnel to digitally manage the camera recordings. “But it’s necessary.”

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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