Phoenix police increasing bodycams amidst community anger

PHOENIX (AP/FOX 10) -- The Phoenix Police Department is speeding up the rollout of more body cameras amid community anger sparked by video of officers cursing and pointing guns at a black family suspected of shoplifting.

No charges were filed against the couple in the video. The woman was pregnant and holding their 1-year-old daughter. They say their 4-year-old daughter took a doll from a store.

The department is assigning body cameras Thursday to the sergeants and officers of its gang unit and Downtown precinct, and the officers also learned how to use them.

The camera has to be turned on by the officer, and after their shift, the cameras are loaded onto the dock, where all the footage will then be uploaded. The footage, and depending on the type of crime, will be saved anywhere from a few months to 99 years.

According to Sgt. Tommy Thompson, this rollout this will bring the number of cameras in use by the department to 1,100.

In February, city leaders approved $5 million to buy and maintain 2,000 devices for a force approaching 3,000 officers. The body camera company Axon also gave Phoenix Police 200 more. The department has had several hundred cameras for years.

"Many of us see it as a perspective from the officer to be able to see what the officer sees," said Sgt. Thompson.

Officers with the cameras include all patrol units, Downtown operations, transit and motor officers, and police officials are also planning to train new recruits with the cameras. Officials said the cameras will provide crucial evidence.

"It is not uncommon after the fact for a witness or a victim to say 'I never said that', or a suspect to say 'I never said that', when in reality we got it recorded," said Sgt. Thompson.

Officials also said they are hiring more people to monitor the systems and go over the data.

"I think by doing that it adds increased transparency for the community," said Sgt. Thompson, who went on to say the department has about 300 more body cameras to distribute, and the current rollout phase is planned to be done with by mid-August. In Phase 2, officials plan to distribute cameras to their SWAT team members.