OKCPD body camera policy
(William W. Savage III)

Eight weeks after telling NonDoc that a resolution to Oklahoma City’s police body-camera issue could come in August, the local union’s president now says negotiations might drag into 2017.

Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police President John George said Monday that his organization continues to oppose the body-camera policy proposed by the department, and vice versa.

“We said, ‘If you want to sign off on our version of the body-camera policy, we’ll let you start it now,'” George said. “But it goes back to all the sticking points we had originally. (Our offer) has all the things the public wants in there. Really, it’s just some internal stuff (that we are negotiating).”

George said both sides agree on having body-camera footage available for review regarding complaints against officers, critical incidents, investigations and other specified reasons. But other details remain unsettled.

“There’s three biggest points,” George said. “Who can watch it for no reason at all? You know, it’s got a list of reasons you can watch it. Right now, they have (proposed that) captains and above can just watch it any time they want. We don’t think anybody should be able to watch it except for all the reasons that are outlined.

“The other one is when to turn it on. Their policy is when you get the call. What we’ve asked for is prior to arrival at the scene. And then the third one (…) is random audit. We agree with the random audit, but just a different version. They want to do it monthly, we want to do it quarterly.”

OKCPD Capt. Paco Balderrama confirmed that the two sides remain in negotiation, but he was less candid on the details.

“We’ve kind of taken the stance that because it’s an open negotiation right now, it’s a little inappropriate to make a comment on it right now,” Balderrama said Monday. “Although I can’t comment on the negotiation itself, I can tell you we’re working very hard to come to a resolution to where we can re-implement the program.”

‘Disheartening for the citizens’

An arbitrator ruled in June that the OKCPD had inappropriately implemented officer body cams under a policy that had not been negotiated with the ruling. As a result, the camera program was ordered to be suspended until a contract could be agreed upon, and the issue has been tied up with the union’s annual contract ever since.

George said the two sides met in August and have already met once in September. He said the next meeting is slated for Sept. 22.

While the police department and the police union remain at an impasse, the situation is “disheartening for the citizens and community,” according to Black Lives Matter Oklahoma founder T. Sheri Dickerson.

“It was [our] hope and desire that resolution would be reached in a more expeditious time frame,” Dickerson said in a statement to NonDoc. “We beseech those organizations involved to invest themselves in trying to come to a collective agreement — to institute the cams back as a permanent form of documentation that helps provide accuracy and accountability for each officer and provides additional information that can also be used to highlight exemplary job performance of outstanding officers.”

Both George and Balderrama expressed a desire to re-implement the body cameras despite continued delays.

“Cameras serve a good purpose, and the longer it takes to get them out there, we could have one of those situations that would have benefited [from being] on camera and it [would] not be caught on camera because they’re on the shelves,” George said.

Dickerson agreed, saying body cameras “will help encourage more trust from the community, as well as promote more cohesive relationship establishment between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”