ATLANTA - Body cameras not rolling, not charged or not turned on at all -- those are the findings of a critical new audit of the Atlanta Police Department.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant got a copy of the highly critical audit on the same day as members of the Atlanta City Council.
[DOCUMENT: Read the full body camera audit here]
Police body cameras are a critical accountability tool to protect officers and build trust with the public.
In a one-on-one interview with Diamant, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields confirmed she asked for the audit of the department's body camera program.
The report found officers only used their body cameras on about one-third of calls, and officers aren’t always using their body cameras the way they’re supposed to, or following the rules.
“I knew we had our work cut out for us, and we’re going to get it done,” Shields told Diamant. “I’m not happy with it, but I’m not surprised. I knew that what we’re asking of officers is a cultural shift.”
Two years ago, the department spent more than $5.5 million on 1,200 body cameras and cloud storage.
Channel 2 Action News was there a few months later when the Atlanta Police Department showed the cameras off.
But among the auditor’s most troubling findings is that officers “delayed activation and prematurely deactivated body-worn cameras for many incidents,” and “the (compliance) team reviewed less than 1% of videos prior to deletion.”
“We’ve made a commitment to transparency. We’ve gotten the body cameras. If an incident happens that’s remotely controversial and we haven’t recorded it, I mean, that just undoes all the good work that we have done,” Shields said.
The auditors agreed with Shields, writing, “Officers risk the potential loss of evidentiary data and public trust.”
Shields said department leaders are working to clean up the body camera policies to get rid of gray areas.
“We just need to do a better job in mandating stricter oversight,” Shields said.
In 2015, Channel 2 Action News traveled to Arizona to interview the CEO of Axon, which manufactures the cameras the Police Department ultimately bought.
“At the end of the day, no one is served by a situation where we don’t know what happened and somebody’s life was lost,” Rick Smith, of Axon, said.
That is why Shields told Diamant that the department will be more proactive about disciplining officers who don’t follow the rules.
“They have to understand that they have to have them on," Shields said.
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