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Portland mayor pushing for police body cameras

Portland is the largest police department in the country that doesn't equip officers with body worn cameras.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is laying the groundwork for Portland Police officers to wear body cameras. In a statement, Wheeler announced he has directed the police bureau to begin researching equipment options, get bids from vendors and pursue possible grant funding.

“I have been a longtime supporter of body worn cameras for the police,” said Wheeler in a statement. “They are used in most large cities and are shown to assist in accountability, public transparency, and fewer reports of misconduct.” 

A KGW investigation in February found the Portland Police Bureau is the only department among the 75 largest municipal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. where officers don’t use body-worn cameras.

The city has explored police body cams for nearly a decade, but those efforts have been stymied by a lack of money and politics. The Portland Police Bureau estimates it would cost roughly $2.9 million to get a body-worn camera program up and running, with ongoing costs of about $1.8 million a year.

Since 2009, the Department of Justice has awarded 805 grants to law enforcement agencies across the country totaling more than $142 million dollars.

In Oregon, some of that money has gone to 13 different law enforcement agencies, including Springfield, Pendleton, Gresham, Lincoln County, University of Oregon, Redmond, Washington County, Hillsboro, Marion County, Portland State University, Beaverton, Medford and Eugene.

The city of Portland has never applied for a Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program grant, according to a U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson.

RELATED: U.S. Dept. of Justice wants Portland Police to get body cams

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked Portland police to adopt a body-worn camera program as part of a 2014 settlement agreement with the federal government on police use of force and training.

Previously, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, an outspoken critic of body cameras, questioned whether they are effective. After being briefed by Department of Justice lawyers last month, Hardesty changed her tone and appeared open to the idea.

RELATED: Portland City Council reluctant to move forward on police body-worn cameras

The city is currently in contract negotiations with the Portland Police Association. Body cameras are being discussed as part of union negotiations. The police union has long supported equipping officers with body worn cameras.