Snowmass Village Police Department implements body camera program |

Snowmass Village Police Department implements body camera program

Senate Bill 217 requires all local law enforcement agencies to issue body-worn cameras to officers by July 1, 2023

File photograph of a Newark, N.J., police officer displaying how a body cam is worn.
AP Photo

Snowmass Village Police Department now has a body-worn camera program for all officers, catching up with other local law enforcement agencies.

The program’s recent implementation comes just months before state law will require all law enforcement agencies to issue body-worn cameras to officers who interact with the public.

The Police Integrity Transparency and Accountability Act, known as Senate Bill 217, was signed into law in June 2020, following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and the protests that arose as a result. The bill requires that any law officer who interacts with the public in any way must be outfitted with a body-worn camera by July 1, 2023.

Currently, all 10 officers in the Snowmass department have been assigned cameras. That includes two community response officers, who do everything from traffic control to trail enforcement to dealing with wildlife reports.

“Everybody’s embraced (the program),” said Snowmass Village Police Chief Brian Olson. “I think everyone appreciates the video back-up to what their day looks like.”

When an officer activates their patrol vehicle’s lights, the camera will automatically begin recording. However, there are some instances where officers are responsible for turning on the camera themselves.

“That’s a little bit of a learning curve, but everyone’s getting the handle of it,” Olson said.

Implementing a body-camera program does come with a bit of management, Olson added. He estimated that in one day, an officer could have a dozen of recordings that need to be sorted and categorized.

How the department treats the footage is dependent on what kind of contact the officer has with the public. Footage with arrests or information about crime investigations that could potentially end up in court may need to be kept permanently, but footage with officers helping a motorist stuck in the snow can be deleted after a few months.

Although other local law enforcement agencies have had camera programs for a while, Olson waited to implement the program because he was hoping that better technology would come out.

“I really wanted that technology to be more prolific amongst all the camera makers, so that we’re not wearing a clunky garage door control on our chests,” he said.

The three new Snowmass Village police cars also are fitted with cameras, and the rest of the new cars, which they are set to get in 2025, will be outfitted with cameras as well. This is not the first time Snowmass police cars have experimented with cameras. Olson said that about 10 years ago, the department went through a period with car cameras.

“Back then, we had to put DVDs into the camera system in the car every day. It was not optimal, so we ended up getting rid of that system,” he said.

Other local sheriff and police departments in the valley have implemented body-worn camera programs ahead of Senate Bill 217.

Aspen Police Department equipped officers with body cameras on a trial basis in January 2019 and permanently funded the program beginning Jan. 1, 2020. In addition to the body cameras, Aspen police have equipped their vehicles with cameras.

Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department has body cameras for each officer and each vehicle. They began implementing their program in 2021.

As of Oct. 1, 2022, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office requires all patrol deputies and investigators to wear cameras while on active duty.

“I think the camera footage continues to show that Snowmass officers conduct themselves in the best, most helpful and compassionate way possible. I don’t think anyone had to change their behavior,” said Olson.