College Place police will soon be wearing body cameras to record interactions with people during everything from traffic stops to major crimes.

The police department invested more than $200,000 to outfit officers’ vests with the audio and visual recording device.

“Body cameras provide a great sense of transparency,” Police Chief Troy Tomaras said. “Law enforcement has been pretty beat-up over this last year for social injustice concerns, and as a result of the George Floyd incident … I think it’s just good that we are making every effort to be transparent.”

The department ordered 15 Axon cameras, the same kind the Seattle Police Department uses. They will arrive in February or March, and officers will wear them after training and setup.

The cost is over five years and covers redaction software and cloud server storage, City Administrator Mike Rizzitiello said.

The cost also includes replacing old tasers with ones that activate body cameras when the taser is used, Tomaras said.

The city also funded a part-time clerk position to handle the camera footage requests.

“We are just in a position financially where the city made it a priority. The more officers an agency has, the more expensive it is ...,” Tomaras said.

Officers wanted the cameras, he said.

“Typically, I think law enforcement has been bad communicators, and that’s one of the reasons why we have the problems we have,” Tomaras said. “And we’re working very hard to be better communicators and to be more transparent. This is just another way to do that.”

Officers activate the camera at the beginning of every encounter and notify the person that the contact is being recorded.

Patrol officers cannot delete or manipulate any footage or review another officer’s cameras. Administrators are permitted for disciplinary or training purposes, among others.

People who want to request footage for a situation must do so through the state public disclosure law. A friend of the contact or someone curious about an interaction will not have access, Tomaras said.

Chloe LeValley can be reached at chloelevalley@wwub.com or 509-526-8326.

Chloe LeValley covers the cities of Walla Walla and College Place as well as agriculture and the environment in the Walla Walla Valley. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and joined the Union-Bulletin's team in October 2019.