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Body cameras drop PFPD complaints in half

POST FALLS, Idaho— Complaints about Post Falls Police officer conduct is nearly a thing of the past thanks to a little bit of technology.

Spokane Police body cameras demonstrated for media

The Spokane Police Department ran several members of the media through its VirTra virtual training system Friday to demonstrate the fidelity of its chest-mounted cameras currently in use by 17 officers in a pilot program.

The video below was captured by a camera worn by this reporter while completing one of several use-of-force training scenarios at the Spokane police training facility.

In the clip, four teenagers are playing with airsoft weapons when a fifth approaches, armed with a real gun, and fires on officers. The scenario is interactive and responds to voice commands from the participant.

Training instructors used the video to illustrate the imperfections of the technology.

"What these video cameras are recording, and what you're going to see, is still not what the officer sees, and what he feels, and what he hears, and what he's experiencing while he's at the scene," Lt. Kevin King said to assembled media Friday. "It's very different."

Police said they've stitched pockets into their jumpsuits to keep the cameras steady during lateral movement.

The body cameras are always filming. When they are switched on, 30 seconds of video prior to the camera's activation is recorded. Sound capturing begins immediately after the camera is turned on. Once the camera is on, it beeps every two minutes to alert the officer filming is taking place.

Sound begins 30 seconds into the above video. Technical issues delay the beginning of the training video, which starts around 2:20.

It should be noted: YouTube asked if I wanted to stabilize the video before uploading it because it's shaky.

Saturday’s highlights

A group of middle schoolers sign University of Minnesota Duluth cross country runner Sam River’s arm after she signed notebooks and posters for them on Thursday at Pasadena Park Elementary School in Spokane Valley. SR photo/Tyler Tjomsland

Happy Monday before Thanksgiving, everyone. Let's mark the beginning of what is a short work week for most people with a look at some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger stopped by Pasadena Park Elementary last week when the students received a visit from about 80 athletes in town for the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships. The kids appeared to be inspired by the visit and topped off the experience by running around the playground with the visiting athletes.

Kids and kids at heart will be disappointed to learn that this year's Spokane Valley Christmas tree lighting has been cancelled. The annual event is run by the Spokane Valley Rotary. The tree was damaged last year and after the person in charge of organizing the event moved away suddenly the tree was not fixed in time. The club president promises that the tradition will be back up and running next year, however.

Despite the ongoing angst in some cities about the use of police body cameras, the city of Liberty Lake just approved a new contract with its police officers that requires the use of body cameras. Six people in the 10 man department have been wearing the cameras on a voluntary basis for several months and the footage they recorded has already proven itself useful many times.

Today’s highlights

The shoreline reinforcement project at a Newman Lake cabin stops the shore from disappearing under it, as seen Tuesday. The Spokane County Conservation District secured a grant to lay “bio logs” of coconut husks wrapped in netting and plant willow trees and other waterside species to create a root matrix that will stabilize the shoreline. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

There are some good stories in today's Valley Voice on everything from erosion control to an entry in the East Farms Diary. A property owner on Newman Lake has teamed up with the Spokane County Conservation District for an erosion control project on their shrinking beach. The addition of power boats to the lake has led to larger wakes, which has washed away 30 feet of beach in the last 15 years.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger spent the day at East Farms STEAM Magnet School recently as students made presentations on projects they have been working on this trimester. Their efforts ranged from watermelon plants to a helicopter mockup.

Half of the Liberty Lake Police Department is now wearing body cameras and recording all their interactions with the public. Wearing the cameras is voluntary and five members of the department have signed on, including the police chief.

The Spokane Valley City Council doesn't seem very happy with changes to the lodging tax rules. A new state law removes the final decision making on who is awarded money and how much from the city council and gives it to the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. The council has no power to change the awards set by the committee.

Guild using cameras as bargaining chip

If city leaders want body cameras to become a standard part of the Spokane Police Department uniform, they’ll have to first work through what the city’s top cop says could be the key hindrance: Spokane police officers.

The Spokane Police Guild is using the city’s proposal as a key bargaining chip in their latest contract negotiations, which recently began, Interim Chief Scott Stephens told the city’s Public Safety Committee this week.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

March 21: Law agencies see benefit of cameras