WREG discovers more cases where MPD officers didn’t turn on body cameras

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When it comes to using body cameras, some Memphis police officers are still not following department rules.

They aren't just turning them off. Some are not even turning them on.

"We have issued over 1,600 body cameras to our officers and we expect them to use it. So our policy covers when they are supposed to activate and when they can deactivate,"  says Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings.

WREG obtained a number of police cases where officers were reprimanded for not turning on their body cameras during a stop.

In one case an officer was investigated after not wearing his body camera when he answered a domestic violence call, where he advised a man and his estranged wife not to prosecute a case.

Another case happened in front of a store on North Lauderdale in February 2017. Police and paramedics were  attending to someone in the street. That's when a man says he came out the of store and tried to go across the street to get to his apartment.

The man says an officer hit him in the face and stomped and kicked him while he was on the ground.

The officer's body cam, which would have shown what happened,  was not activated.

We found other cases.

An officer was found to have violated the body cam policy when a citizen complained the officer yelled at him. Authorities tried to review what happened from the body camera, but the officer told them he 'thought' he had activated it, but apparently didn't.

In another case, a police officer was suspended for 5 days after he didn't activate his body cam when he was flagged down by a prostitute who reported that an unnamed officer had paid her for sex and wouldn't leave her alone.

We asked Police Director Mike Rallings about the violations.

"Sometimes officers get into something quickly and may not have time. We think some of it is a training issue where officers need more training," says Rallings.

These cases come to light after the recent police shooting of Martavious Banks where 3 officers have been suspended for turning off their body cameras prior to the shooting.

Mayor Jim Strickland has called for an investigation of those cases, but he also points there have been 3 and half million body and dash cam recordings in the last 2 years.

"Three and a half million recordings. Fifty or 60 times that cameras have not been turned on. That's 99.99% success rate. We want 100% success rate. We want to drive that non-use down to zero. But overall I think the system is working very well," says Strickland.

Police say there are instances where officers are allowed to turn off their body cameras, like when a person's privacy is at issue.

But the police director says officers who turn them off outside of department policy will be dealt with.