Aspen cops to be outfitted with body cams for 5 years

Aspen Police Sgt. Dan Davis shows in 2015 one of the two types of body cameras the Aspen Police Department was experimenting with. One clips to the chest while the other clips to a cap or glasses.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times file

After nearly a year of Aspen police officers using body cameras in a free trial experiment, elected officials on Tuesday approved a five-year contract with the provider.

The $191,391 contract with Scottsdale-based Axon Enterprise will outfit APD’s 27 officers and six community resource officers with cameras, as well as supporting equipment and related cloud-based evidence management software through 2024.

The contract, which was approved by Aspen City Council on its consent agenda during its regular meeting on Tuesday, begins Jan. 1.

The free trial period ends Dec. 31; Axon gave the APD enough cameras for each officer to use one for the year, and they now feel comfortable using them, reported Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor in September.

The cost translates to roughly $1,000 per officer. The program costs $36,492 annually, except for the first year in which the expenses are $45,423 for additional one-time services.

Aspen police first began experimenting with body cameras in 2013, when the department bought two cameras and allowed officers to use them on a voluntary basis.

Those who have used them have said the cameras are valuable because they can protect officers against false accusations, make officers more mindful of their behavior and can be a good reference in both writing reports and identifying suspects.

Evidence gathering capabilities offered by the cameras also are an asset, APD officials said.

Aspen community citizen survey data from 2015 and 2016 showed that 73% of respondents either somewhat or strongly supported implementing body cameras with perceptions that the cameras would provide objectivity, reduce conflict and improve safety, according to Pryor.

An internal Aspen police survey of staff showed that officers felt the cameras were somewhat or very useful, felt comfortable using the cameras, but didn’t necessarily think they made a difference to relationships with the public.