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Police body cameras go on patrol with Oklahoma City officers

Oklahoma City police officers will be equipped with body cameras on Friday, the first day of a yearlong pilot program.

About 150 police officers will be provided with the cameras while they patrol the city.

"We decided to equip the busiest shift from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.," Capt. Paco Balderrama said. "We wanted to start simple. It's a lot more difficult to equip the whole department right off the bat."

Body cameras are small cameras worn on the shirt, shoulder or glasses that record and store digital video.

The cameras will not be running the duration of the officers' 10-hour shifts. The high-definition cameras will be manually started during enforcement actions, such as traffic stops and arriving at crime scenes, he said.

About 25 officers each in four patrol divisions will be equipped with the cameras. The equipment will not be assigned to individual officers. On days off, other officers working the same shift will be given the cameras, Balderrama said.

Department policies have been drafted and officers and supervisors trained on the equipment, but adjustments likely will be made.

"We know that this one-year period is going to allow us to make improvements and updates to the program and really flesh it out," Balderrama said.

The department has added four new positions — two people to maintain and upkeep the system, and two to manage the digital evidence.

A city attorney and legal assistant were hired by the city to handle requests for the video data.

The pilot program comes after a 30-day test in September of three body camera systems. Oklahoma City officers will be wearing WatchGuard body cameras. 

WatchGuard, based in north Texas, bills itself as the world's largest manufacturer of police camera systems. The company states that nearly a third of U.S. law enforcement agencies use its body camera and in-car camera systems.