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Police say purchase was in the works even before officer shot, killed Tigard man

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Tigard Police Department will purchase 80 body-worn cameras, 33 in-dash/fleet cameras, 80 Tasers and other technology for almost $1.5 million.Tigard police are in the process of purchasing body-worn cameras for all officers in the department.

The body-worn cameras will include accompanying hardware that will automatically turn them on if an officer draws their gun or Taser. Additionally, Tigard will be replacing all outdated or failing dashboard-mounted cameras in police vehicles.

At a meeting last month, the Tigard City Council approved almost $1.5 million for an upgraded technology package that includes the purchase of 80 body-worn cameras.

Currently, only nine Tigard officers have been issued body cams.

Increasing the number of body cams in the police department has been a priority of the City Council. However, the shooting death of Jacob Ryan Macduff on Jan. 6 by then-Tigard police officer Gabriel Maldonado at a Tigard apartment complex has focused more attention on the matter. Officers at the scene were not equipped with body cams, authorities say.

Kelsey Anderson, public information officer for the Tigard Police Department, said researching the expansion of police technology, including body cams began in mid-2019.

In addition, 33 in-dash/fleet cameras, 80 Tasers, and four interview room cameras with microphones will be purchased, along with licensing fees for cloud storage and other technology.

At the April 13 meeting where the City Council approved the nearly $1.5 million purchase, Tigard Police Sgt. Leigh Erickson explained the history of the body-worn cameras.

"We've been using body-worn cameras since about 2008. It started with our (motorcycle officers) with a body-worn camera and then it moved to a point of view camera … and then we expanded that to include our school resource officers, our K-9 and our community services officers over the last five years," he explained.

Beaverton, Hillsboro and Sherwood currently use the cameras the Tigard department is purchasing, the Axon Body 3 system.

Erickson said the estimated 30 dash cameras in patrol cars haven't been updated since 2008 and have microphones that are no longer reliable. The new cameras are easier to use and activate, have clearer pictures and automatically upload to a cloud-based system instead of having to go back to the station to upload them.

"There's been an emphasis on the use of body-worn cameras at all levels; an expectation by the public to use them; and we also heard locally from community members that in the wake of what happened last spring for us to have these cameras and to use them," he told the council.

He said based on what police departments have heard throughout the nation, it's important to have video evidence for trials and to provide transparency to the community by using the camera technology.

Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton has asked the Oregon attorney general's office to review the investigation conducted by the Washington County Major Crimes Team into Macduff's death.

Maldonado, the police officer who shot and killed Macduff, has since left the Tigard Police Department. Officials say his departure is unrelated to the shooting. He has since taken a job with the Port of Portland's police branch.

During a press conference via Zoom Monday, Maria Macduff, the mother of Jacob Macduff, was asked about the department's move to purchase the cameras. She said she wishes there was camera footage of her son's shooting death and is supportive of plans to purchase the new body-worn cameras.

Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine told the council on April 13 that she believes having all officers wear the body-worn cameras was important as well.

"As noted, the transparency and accountability to our community is paramount and by enhancing our program and upgrading the technology, I think, is critical," said McAlpine, noting that City Manager Steve Rymer thought they should be purchased now instead of waiting for the next budget cycle.

McAlpine said the necessity of such cameras became apparent the night of Jan. 7, when protesters arrived in downtown Tigard in a march that police declared a riot after windows were smashed and graffiti sprayed on buildings.

She said the city had to scramble before that event to borrow body-worn cameras from other agencies "and that really isn't acceptable in this day and age."

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