Vancouver Police Chief: Now Is An 'Opportune Time' To Consider Body Cameras

By Molly Solomon (OPB)
Vancouver, Wash. March 20, 2019 1:42 a.m.

After a slew of recent police shootings, Vancouver’s police chief is reconsidering his department’s stance on body cameras.

During a regularly scheduled city council meeting Monday, Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain was invited to speak to the mayor and councilors on how his department is responding to fatal shootings.


“Four officer-involved shootings in a short amount of time is quite unusual, especially for a city our size, like Vancouver,” McElvain told councilors.

A man in a Vancouver Police Department uniform stands in front of a U.S. flag.

Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain speaks Monday, March 18, 2019, in Vancouver, Wash.

Molly Solomon / OPB

He outlined the department’s protocol after a police shooting and the status of current department policies and officer training.

He also discussed body-worn cameras and said that now may be the opportune time for his force to look into the potential.

“If it builds better transparency to our organization, if it builds better confidence within the community of the job that our officers do on a daily basis,” McElvain said, “we’re happy to take a look at body-worn cameras.”


The department has had an unprecedented number of officer-involved shootings, a total of four in five weeks. Three have resulted in deaths.

On Feb. 5, a police chase crossed into Portland and resulted in a shootout that shut down Interstate 84.

On Feb. 19, officers responding to a domestic disturbance call shot and killed 16-year-old Clayton Joseph after he allegedly brandished a knife.

A week later, 29-year-old Michael Eugene Pierce, who family members have said was homeless and suffering from mental illness, was killed in downtown Vancouver after waving and pointing replica guns.

And most recently, Detectives Dennis Devlin and Colton Price shot and killed 43-year-old Carlos M. Hunter during a traffic stop on March 7.

McElvain had previously told OPB he was not considering body cameras, citing staffing and financial resources.

"While we recognize that is a tool out there, we are not prepared to put those into operation anytime soon," he told OPB last week.

McElvain brought similar concerns to councilors Monday night, and said implementing cameras would not be cheap, nor would complying with Washington’s public records requirements related to the camera recordings. But he said they could also bring many benefits, including a reduction in citizen complaints and lower liability to the community.

The police chief told councilors he was happy to look into a cost benefit analysis if the city wanted to move in that direction.

Vancouver city manager Eric Holmes said the city is planning a series of listening sessions for the community to respond to the uptick in police use of lethal force.