By Brian Maass and Mark Ackerman
DENVER (CBS4)– CBS4 has learned that uniformed Denver police officers working off-duty jobs will soon be required to wear body cameras, according to an internal Denver Police Department email obtained by the CBS4 Investigative team.
Over the past year, all uniformed police officers have been equipped with body cameras to wear during their regular patrol shifts. The new policy shift, scheduled to take effect in July, would require all uniformed Denver police officers working “off-duty” to wear body cameras, as well.
Last month, the City of Denver paid out a $185,000 settlement following a 2014 incident where an off-duty police officer working security at a LoDo bar, pushed a patron. Civil rights attorney Siddhartha Rathod said his client, Brandon Schreiber, had his hands in his pockets when officer Choice Johnson shoved him.
“Officer Johnson grabbed Brandon Schreiber by the neck, slammed him down on the stairs and repeatedly slammed him up and down against the ground,” said Rathod.
The incident was captured from above by a city HALO camera.
Rathod thinks extending body cams to officers working off- duty could curtail some of these violent incidents that he says are costing taxpayers millions in payouts.
“Studies show that reports of excessive force and discourtesy are dramatically reduced,” Rathod said. “Bodycams help curb the conduct of officers.”
Responding to the CBS4 report, Lieutenant Aaron Sanchez oversees DPD’s body camera program and said requiring off-duty officers to wear bodycams while working secondary jobs was a natural extension of the program.
“This is about transparency. We have a responsibility for our behavior,“ said Lt. Sanchez. “The general public doesn’t see us as on-duty or off-duty, they just know we are the cops at whatever venue they are at.”
But the police union is already raising objections.
“I got issues with it,” said Nick Rogers, President of the Denver Police Protective Association.
Rogers said the PPA is asking a judge to weigh in on the legality of the new body camera policy. He said there are a lot of issues to work out about how the videos would be uploaded after an officer gets home from his off duty job, and how the video would be transmitted and stored. Rogers asked if the city intends to now pay officers for their time at home uploading body cam video obtained during their off duty employment.
Rogers told CBS4 the new policy was “setting these guys up for failure.”
Sanchez says part of the cost of the body cams for officers working off-duty will be passed along to the bars, venues and sports teams that employ them.
Employers who hire uniformed police officers will be charged an extra 50 cents per hour to help cover the costs of expanding the body camera program.
Calls to the Colorado Rockies and Denver Broncos, who employ dozens of off-duty officers for their games, were not returned in time for this report.