The Oklahoma City Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #123 announced Nov. 29 a formal agreement to re-start the body-worn camera program.

The FOP and Police Department have been negotiating the written directives for use of the cameras since June, when an arbitrator ruled the policies governing the use of body-worn cameras by officers have to be negotiated between the City and the FOP as part of the collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator’s decision temporarily halted the program about halfway through its year-long pilot period.

The new agreement announced Nov. 29 defines, among other things, when officers are required to activate the cameras, the frequency of usage audits, and when the video can be reviewed by police management. 

“Body-worn cameras are an additional tool for better policing that provides more openness and accountability of officers’ and citizens’ actions,” Police Chief Bill Citty said. “Police management and FOP worked together to create a procedure that will provide guidance to officers, protect the rights of officers and management, while ensuring police accountability to the public.” 

“The OKC FOP has always supported the use of body cameras, and believes these cameras will help exonerate officers of false complaints and reinforce the professional image of Oklahoma City officers,” said local FOP President John George. “We’re proud to have reached an agreement with the Police Department on policies for the use of cameras that satisfies the needs of management, officers and the public. We look forward to getting these body cameras back on the streets.” 

Agreement details

Under the terms of the agreement, officers must activate body-worn cameras in most situations when performing their official duties on the job, including:

  • during voluntary contact with people in public places;
  • before detaining someone or using force;
  • before exiting their patrol car on high-priority calls;
  • during pursuits or sobriety tests;
  • when they’re asked to by a supervisor, and in other situations.

The officers may not activate the cameras:

  • when interviewing victims or witnesses and other involved or reporting parties;
  • in situations where someone would have a reasonable expectation of privacy;
  • in a healthcare facility, and in other situations.

After completing body-worn camera training, each officer has a 90-day grace period for unintentionally failing to activate the camera when it’s required. A consistent pattern of failing to activate the camera during the grace period would potentially result in an administrative investigation and corrective action.  The cameras will be distributed as evenly as possible across patrol divisions and shifts.

The initial one-year cost of the program is about $405,000 that includes the first 100 cameras, supporting equipment and payroll costs for four new employees to manage the system. The body-worn camera pilot program started in January with 100 cameras. The Police Department recently received a federal grant for $270,000 that will add 180 cameras to complete the program.