It's time for the Bend Police Department to bite the bullet and require officers use cameras in their contact with the public. While grainy amateur videos taken by eyewitnesses have surfaced, the December 23 downtown shooting death of 31-year old Michael Tyler Jacques presents a clear need for the use of cameras by Bend cops.
Eyewitnesses have told attorneys representing the Jacques family that he was unarmed, cooperative with police, and shot at point blank range. According to attorney Michelle Burrows, one eyewitness told her Jacques was shot in the back of the head within 15-20 seconds after the driver-side door on his Dodge Caravan was opened by police.
Bend police are not commenting on those allegations while the investigation into the matter is being conducted by Oregon State Police. And, Police Chief Jim Porter won't comment because of legal constraints.
Rather than lingering allegations and an investigation that may take months or even years to complete, the public that police protect deserves faster, more complete information. Police credibility and confidence in public safety are on the line and we deserve better answers—not to mention the cost savings that the public could see from a shorter investigation that saps fewer dollars from already-tight budgets. And, the Jacques family deserves better answers. The two cops involved in the shooting, now on administrative leave, also deserve quicker resolution.
During a videotaped interview, Chief Porter told the Source Weekly that his department is seriously considering the use of cameras and that their deployment is only a matter of time. The cost is a concern and the department would have to hire two to three full time employees to manage the video program and to comply with state laws governing their use.
Attorney Burrows says cameras should be required by Bend Police and all police departments considering the rising incidents of police-involved shootings nationwide. She argues that, "It should be mandated. It helps them, too. If an officer is accused of doing something they didn't do, a video will end the discussion. It's a protective tool for everybody involved."
There is another reason to institute the use of cameras by police. In Bend, police are responding to 3-5 calls a week involving people in a mental crisis. That's nearly 1,700 a year – three times the level of only a few years ago. Couple that with criminal activity and that face-to-face confrontations involving police and the public are increasing. As Bend continues its growth, this will only increase and continue.
Nothing is more important than the public safety of Bend's citizenry and the credibility of its police force. We ask a lot of our sworn protectors. It's time the city digs deep to find the money necessary to provide the tools that will reveal the truth about these encounters.
Police credibility, and our safety, are on the line.