Warsaw Police Department has had access to a few body cameras since January 2014, but equipping all uniformed officers with one is still a topic of discussion as it has been for months.
WPD Lt. Joel T. Beam said along with the few body cameras the police department has, every squad car has an advanced vehicle camera.
“I think we were one of the first agencies in the area to have a camera in every squad car,” Beam said. “It’s important to us.”
Public Information Officer Kip Shuter said the body cameras could integrate with the vehicle cameras. Shuter said there are both benefits and disadvantages with using body cameras. The major drawback is that it is recording technology, and with that comes data storage, which is cost-prohibitive.
“You can’t always rely on it to be working and weather conditions can affect it,” Shuter said. “The biggest thing with body cameras and digital stuff now is storage space.”
Beam said the vehicle cameras alone store 15 to 20 gigabytes daily. He said the police department must keep all the data until each specific case is closed. They can also use footage from the cameras as evidence in court cases and must also keep that data until the case is closed.
If there is “use of force” in an incident the data must be kept even longer. Adding body cameras onto that would require more storage and pose a bigger concern – adding an additional 20 to 25 gigabytes of storage per day.
Another issue of concern with body cameras is that they are meant to capture what an officer sees. Shuter said the cameras have a limited field of vision compared to the human eye.
“Nothing can capture what the human eye can,” Beam said.
The WPD uses two different brands of body cameras. Beam said they are using a Taser model and a Digital Ally. The Digital Ally, a larger camera and more rugged compared to the Taser model, is what the SWAT team uses.
The Taser model is also specifically designed for law enforcement. The Taser cameras range in price from a few hundred dollars to $1,200 for the entire system that includes cloud storage.
Shuter also said they need cameras that can withstand extreme conditions because officers are exposed to various scenarios and weather conditions, and the Taser models meet the needs for these extremes. Taser cameras also include a wide-angle lens, can capture video in low-light situations, upload video to the cloud or other storage, and live streaming is a possibility.
Shuter said he would like to equip all 25 uniformed officers with body cameras. These cameras and storage are pricey but Shuter said there are different ways to afford them. He said the police department could use money from their budget and taxpayer money. With the big push nationwide, Shuter said there also would be federal grants available, but not every agency is guaranteed to benefit from them. There also are other funds that are possibly available through the Department of Homeland Security.
Beam said they have implemented the few body cameras they have, and he has received only positive feedback from the officers. He said the only people who will have access and administrative rights to the data from these cameras are the lieutenant and higher ranks.
“The officer has access to view their videos, but they can’t do anything with it, and they can’t adjust it,” Beam said. “But, they can copy it to a CD for the prosecutor’s office.”
Beam said body cameras for police officers are very public now. Shuter and Beam said there have been times throughout their careers they wanted them, but made it through without body cameras.
“We’re not pushing this because of recent events, we just want to keep up technologically,” Beam said. “(Body cameras) are not a solution to fix all the world’s problems.”
(Story By The Times Union)