Denver police operate more than 270 cameras around the city. The department wants to add 25 more.

But first, city lawmakers want more information about how High Activity Location Observation, or HALO cameras, are used and located.
3 min. read
A HALO camera over Colfax Avenue in Capitol Hill, Dec. 21, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Denver Police Department wants to spend $1.4 million to hire a company to maintain and install new HALO, or High Activity Location Observation, cameras, which the agency uses to monitor and respond to incidents around the city.

Denver police investigations division chief Joe Montoya told city lawmakers Tuesday that the contract would allow the department to add 25 new cameras. Denver police spokesperson Doug Schepman said in an email to Denverite the contract would allow the new cameras to be installed over a five-year period.

But the department will have to wait a bit before getting new equipment.

At a council committee meeting Tuesday, members voted to postpone sending the department's request to the full City Council, citing the need for more information about the cameras, including where they're located.

The purchasing order with Stone Security, which has offices in Denver, would run for three years, with a two one-year year renewal options afterward. The company won the contract through a bidding processes.

The contract lawmakers considered on Tuesday technically already started in November, though senior procurement analyst for the city Joe Furman said it's only paying for maintenance in an amount ($228,000) that's under the threshold requiring Denver City Council approval (so less than $500,000). It could potentially run until November 2026 through the renewal option. The money for the contract comes from the Department of Safety's budget.

Council President Stacie Gilmore said she wants more transparency from the department about where the cameras are located and what their capabilities are. She wanted to know, for example, how many are capable of providing a 360-degree view.

She and other council members want an audit to provide more information on the cameras, including data on whether they've been used to spot police misconduct and or to exonerate people.

Montoya said an audit could take up to three months to complete.

The cameras are monitored by an 11-member civilian team comprised of 10 technicians and one supervisor housed at DPD's Real Time Crime & Information Center. The city currently has 276 HALO cameras, and some of their locations are available on the city's website, though Montoya said the map hasn't been updated since 2018.

He said HALO cameras can function as "the first eyes on scene" and support first-responders. He acknowledged concerns about their use for surveillance.

"It gives them the situational awareness prior to the arrival at the scene," Montoya said, speaking about first-responders. "Many times, the response is based on what the radio transmission is ... the HALO operators are able to get there first in most cases, determine what's going on, and report that back to the first responders."

Montoya said the cameras are monitored daily between 7 a.m. and 3 a.m., though the cameras continue recording during the hours where they aren't monitored. They are fixed, but some are capable of panning, tilting and zooming, according to the department. They were first installed in 2007. They do not have facial recognition capabilities, Montoya said.

Three residents spoke at Tuesday's meeting. All supported the potential expansion, including Frank Locantore, executive director of the Colfax Ave Business Improvement District, who said the cameras help identify criminal activity along the busy corridor.

Monica Martinez, executive director at the nonprofit The Fax Partnership, supported the police department's request. She told lawmakers a survey conducted by the nonprofit in 2020 highlighted the community's most pressing concerns.

"The top issue of concern was safety and crime," Martinez said.

The contract is scheduled to be considered on April 26.

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