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May 13, 2014 8:36 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Some TPD body cameras malfunctioned during Main Gate Square scuffle

TUCSON - The Tucson Police Department has confirmed to News 4 Tucson that several body cameras worn by officers during the unlawful assembly following the UA's loss in the Elite 8 malfunctioned -- they either simply did not record or were pointed elsewhere, missing some of the action.

Crowds poured onto University Boulevard following Arizona's Elite 8 loss to Wisconsin, which lead to the arrest of 15 people.

Roughly 50 TPD officers were wearing body or helmet cameras, providing hundreds of hours of video to be reviewed.

News 4 Tucson has confirmed that some of those cameras were not functioning properly.

James Lyall of the ACLU of Arizona said while there are certain risks, including privacy, in using body-mounted cameras on law enforcement, there's also a huge benefit of accountability.

"There are certain situations, for example, in a SWAT team encounter or a riot situation where clearly the cameras should be on," Lyall said.

TPD has been unable to pinpoint specific reasons as to why some of its helmet and body cameras did not work. However, the Oro Valley Police Department, which uses the same technology, has had some problems in the past.

"We've had some issues and some glitches with battery packs... other issues where it said it was recording and it wasn't -- but these are glitches that we worked through with our vendor," said Lt. Chris Olson of the Oro Valley Police Department.

Olson said that the OVPD has used this type of technology for the past two years and it has been extremely useful in court as well as reviewing officers' actions.

"What we're using is the Axon Flex. It's made by TASER. This camera is capable of mounting on the sunglasses, on the hat, on the collar and on the shoulder," Olson said.

Still, Lyall insists certain safeguards need to be in place to maintain the integrity of using body cameras.

"If police officers can turn them off at-will or only operate the cameras when they want to, that really undermines the purpose," Lyall said.

Tucson Police declined an on-camera interview because the investigation is ongoing. However, the video that was recorded during the incident should be released in the coming weeks.

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