Garfield County Sheriff’s officers now wearing body cameras, ahead of July 2023 mandate

Oficina del Sheriff del Condado de Garfield en Glenwood Springs.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies are now required to wear body cameras when they are on active duty — nine months ahead of a state mandate that all police officers be required to wear them.

Sheriff Lou Vallario said he decided early on that his office would not wait until July 2023, when Colorado’s new Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity law goes into effect, to implement a body camera program in Garfield County.

He said in a recent news release that he also wanted to research the various types of equipment on the market and find one that would work best for his department’s needs.

The provider selected was the Axon system, and, for three months, several deputies have been testing the equipment under a variety of circumstances.

“After a great deal of research and field-testing, we were comfortable with initiating full use of the system,” the release states.

The devices can either be activated on-demand by the wearer or switched on automatically if a key trigger point occurs during a police contact. That allows the deputy to perform his or her job without stopping to activate the camera, it states.

In addition, the Axon system allows digital evidence captured by witnesses to an incident to be shared with the investigating officers through a computer link and is included as part of the record, the release said.

“The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office will provide authorized members of the agency with body-worn camera (BWC) recording devices to capture both the audio and video of contacts between our members and the public,” Vallario said in the release. “The use of BWC recording devices is intended to enhance the mission of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office by accurately capturing contacts between members and the public.”

Body cameras will also be provided for transport deputies and used in the jail, the release states.

Vallario noted that body cameras have been in use by many departments, including some local police departments in Garfield County, for several years and are an important tool for law enforcement. But, the technology is still evolving. 

The news release points to studies showing 93% of the public favors the use of BWC recording devices as well as law-enforcement surveys where 82% of officers want to wear them on the job.

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