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Camas police to get body cameras but failed tax proposition means wait for Clark Co. deputies

The city of Camas is putting money toward getting its officers equipped. But in Clark County, voters shot down a sales tax that would have funded cams for deputies.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Police officers in Camas are one step closer to having body-worn cameras. 

City council just committed roughly $311,000 toward a purchase and implementation program. 

City leaders in Camas saw their investment as covering two issues: First, to abide by new statewide police reform laws, that starting next year, will require recording all juvenile and adult felony interrogations. And second, to equip all officers with cameras for use as part of their everyday duties.

“We were thinking that one of the best ways we could attack that is by getting body-worn cameras that are available to all of the officers all of the time,” said Sgt. Scot Boyles of the Camas Police Department.

But while Camas is pushing forward, Clark County is stuck in neutral.

Clark County voters turned down a 0.01% sales tax proposition that was intended to pay for a body camera program for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, and proponents say the loss may be over confusion over Proposition 10.

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Clark County councilors said Proposition 10 would have funded body cameras and the administrative costs for 30 years.

The problem is, the proposition didn't say anything about body cameras in its title. Instead, it was billed as a tax to fund juvenile and jail facilities. Only reading the text of the proposition explained the end goal was to fund body cameras.

“This was in no way to raise money for jails and yes, it was confusing; and it wasn't our doing,” said District 4 Councilor David Medvigy.  

As for potential confusion and concern amongst voters over the ballot effort, Medvigy said their hands were tied by legal advice that the county could only ask for a new sales tax in limited ways, although Medvigy could have voted for an alternate measure that would have been more explicit, but also would have given 40% of revenue raised to Clark County cities, for their use.

“We had a couple of options before we put this measure on the ballot,” said County Councilor Julie Olson.

Olson did not support putting Prop. 10 on the ballot because of the confusion factor; she supported an alternative ballot plan.

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But despite differences over the best measure to get the funding, the entire council has said it supports body cams, so the delay is disappointing across the board.

“If we don't get another measure on the ballot until November of 2022, we're a full year behind when we could have been gotten it started, made the purchase and start beginning the program so it does set us back,” said Olson.

“I am 100% behind finding the money to support this program, it has to happen,” said Medvigy, adding that they will look to next year, while he continues to spearhead efforts to find the money to get Clark County deputies equipped with cameras.

And in the meantime, Camas is getting started.

“We want to be transparent. We know that agencies all across the country are using body-worn cameras and it protects all involved and so we're sure we're going to get there; we're not quite there yet,” said Boyles.