By Mark Ackerman and Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – Police body cameras in Colorado and around the country have changed the way law enforcement investigates citizen complaints — providing an “instant replay” to determine if an officer acted professionally or crossed the line.

Last November, Pueblo police officer Benjamin Candelaria was charged with sexually assaulting a woman after responding to a domestic violence call. Authorities say the officer’s body camera showed him returning to the house after fellow officers left, having a sexual conversation with the woman, and then turning off the body camera. Candelaria resigned and is due in court Oct. 5 for his arraignment.

benjamin candelaria Body Cameras Provide Instant Replay Of Citizen Complaints

Benjamin Candelaria (credit: Pueblo Police)

In July 2016, a Commerce City police officer chased an anti-police protestor through traffic trying to arrest him. His own camera caught him shooting his Taser at the protester.

commerce city taser Body Cameras Provide Instant Replay Of Citizen Complaints

(credit: Commerce City PD)

Another officer stepped in and put a stop to the chase, stating the protester was on public property and had a right to be there. The officer resigned before a final decision occurred regarding discipline.

More frequently though, police say body cameras are helping clear officers of false complaints which are often filed by people trying to avoid punishment.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see how body cameras helped resolve each complaint.

Deputy Chief Lee Mathis of the Erie Police Department said the body camera often clarifies “he said, she said” complaints. Mathis pointed to one example where an officer stopped a woman for speeding. The motorist later filed a complaint stating the police officer lacked compassion for her health concerns. But, reviewing the officer’s body camera, it was clear to Mathis the officer acted professionally.

lee mathis Body Cameras Provide Instant Replay Of Citizen Complaints

Deputy Chief Lee Mathis (credit: CBS)

“It appeared to us that the officer did well and asked her several times if she was OK,” said Mathis, who invites the public to view body-camera footage when there is a complaint. “Ninety-plus percent of our complaints we clear by looking at those videos.”

In southern Colorado, the Custer County Sheriff investigated a complaint that one of his deputies was rude and talked down to a man she pulled over for speeding in a school zone.

custer county Body Cameras Provide Instant Replay Of Citizen Complaints

(credit: Custer County Sheriff)

The speeder objected to the citation, telling the deputy, “You shouldn’t be writing tickets to people who live here in town. That’s not right and if you do I’m going to fight it.”

After reviewing the video, Sheriff Shannon Byerly said, “You can see his allegations were completely frivolous.”

CBS4 INVESTIGATES: See All Of CBS4’s Body Cameras Reports

Lone Tree police arrested a man for false reporting after he filed a complaint claiming he was shoved and punched by a police officer while he was stopped for driving under the influence.

“We take it seriously and investigate every complaint,” said Lone Tree police Chief Kirk Wilson.

kirk wilson Body Cameras Provide Instant Replay Of Citizen Complaints

Lone Tree Chief Kirk Wilson (credit: CBS)

Lone Tree police watched the video with the suspect who later agreed he was wrong.

“The officer was exonerated and the event never occurred,” said Wilson.

The suspect pleaded guilty to false reporting.

Additional Resources

Currently, 22 of Colorado’s 63 sheriff’s offices have body cameras. Four more sheriffs plan to deploy body cameras by the end of 2017.

54 out of 109 Colorado police departments invested in body-worn cameras

Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

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