- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 160 District of Columbia police officers will wear cameras that record them performing their duties as part of a six-month pilot program, and Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Wednesday that she hopes to expand the program to the entire department within three years.

Lanier spoke glowingly about the program, saying the cameras would enhance safety for officers and the public and make internal investigations more efficient.

“This will make our officers safer. It will make our department more transparent. It will reduce the amount of time that supervisors have to spend investigating allegations,” Lanier.

A handful of police departments around the country have started giving officers wearable cameras, and Lanier said she’s received positive feedback from other police chiefs.

The pilot program will cost $1 million. Participating officers, who volunteered for the program, will try out five different models of camera to determine which ones are the most comfortable and capture the best video. Officers will turn them on as soon as they’re dispatched and turn them off only after leaving the scene of an incident, Lanier said.

Supervisors who investigate complaints against officers will be able to use the videos to find out what happened at the scene of an arrest or traffic stop, Lanier said, calling the cameras “an independent, unbiased witness.”

The city’s police union also supports the camera program.

“In all jurisdictions where this has been implemented, complaints against police officers have been reduced,” union chairman Delroy Burton said. “It also enhances officer safety. People behave differently when they know they’re being recorded.”

Videos captured by the cameras will be destroyed after three months unless they’re needed for an investigation, Lanier said. The videos will be available to the public through Freedom of Information requests, but the department is still working out how to process requests in a timely fashion and redact videos as needed, she said.

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