Pitkin County deputies to wear body cameras within a year

State law moves mandatory date to 2022, will cost about $67,000 year

Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies will have body cameras and in-vehicle cameras within a year, an official said Monday.

That’s the deadline set by a bill signed last week by Gov. Jared Polis, which moves up the date that all law enforcement agencies must be equipped with body cameras by a year to July 1, 2022.

“I think it’s what policing has turned into,” Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Monday. “I think it’s the way of the world.”

DiSalvo has said for years he did not think body cameras were necessary for his deputies, and that he trusted his hiring process to identify deputies who make trustworthy decisions. However, Senate Bill 217 passed last year in the wake of George Floyd’s murder required all law enforcement agencies to begin using body cameras by July 1, 2023.

An update to that bill in this year’s Colorado Legislature – House Bill 1250 – moved up that deadline to next July.

“Now it’s a mandate, so I don’t have a choice,” DiSalvo said.

Pitkin County Undersheriff Alex Burchetta said he’s spent much of this year researching the best body camera options and thinks the best plan is a lease agreement with a software company and avoid having to add a full-time technology person to the staff. The cost will amount to about $67,000 a year, or about $2,160 per deputy per year, he said. The exact company has not yet been chosen.

The Sheriff’s Office likely will lease 27 cameras for all patrol deputies, including DiSalvo and Burchetta, and another four for Pitkin County Jail deputies, Burchetta said. The agreement also will include the installation of cameras in all 26 Pitkin County sheriff’s vehicles.

The money for the cameras will come from the county’s general fund and be part of the Sheriff’s Office budget, which will be approved by county commissioners later this year. This year’s HB 1250 also allocated money for law enforcement agencies to use in the form of grants to buy the equipment.

The Aspen Police Department equipped all officers with body cameras on a trial basis beginning Jan. 1, 2019, then permanently funded the program starting Jan. 1, 2020. That program cost about $36,500 a year, Assistant Chief Linda Consuegra said in September 2019.

The difference in price is because APD vehicles were already equipped with in-car cameras that activate when the siren is turned on, so the department did not need that feature, Burchetta said.

Assistant Aspen Police Chief Bill Linn said Monday the cameras — used by all officers and community resource officers — have proven to be worth the money.

“They are amazing,” he said. “They’re so beneficial to everything we do.”

The cameras, which are operated by a company called Axon, provide an unbiased version of interactions between officers and residents and visitors they interact with, Linn said. The department has found that most citizen-generated complaints have been resolved in favor of officers after video footage was reviewed.

In addition, citizens now often expect officers to wear body cameras, Linn said.


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