Video captured by cell phones has captured national attention; from deadly officer-involved shootings to officers themselves being gunned down. But what about video captured by body cameras on police officers?
In the age of cell phone videos and social media officers having their own evidence of an incident is seemingly a top priority. Body cameras give officers the ability to record everything they see, from their point of view.
“If you have a body cam you can see if they’re digging through their glove box, if they’re reaching down underneath their seat, you cant see any of that you can kind of see their head bob but that’s about it.” Ian White, a Fayetteville Police Officer said.
It’s just a small device but police say the importance of transparency is pretty astronomical. Also astronomical the cost.
“We’re talking about a very large expenditure of money,” Sgt. Craig Stout of the Fayetteville Police Department said.
Last year, the Fayetteville Police Department received a federal grant to cover the cost of the cameras.
The PD needs 60 cameras so every patrol officer and supervisor can wear them and at about $600 a piece it’s a grand total of $36,000. The $51,000 grant will cover every camera, but just a small portion of the data storage costs. The rest will come out of the police department’s pocket.
Fayetteville plans to implement body cams fully by spring 2017.
“What do Fayetteville officers think of these body cams?” KNWA asked. “Do they think it’s a hindrance or do they think it’ll be helpful?
“Well I think we’ll find that we’re going to find that it’s helpful,” Sgt. Craig Stout responded.
The Farmington Police Department has had body cameras since October 2012. Their officers say the cams proven to be very helpful.
“We had the dash cameras before that, the biggest benefit is these go in houses with us, these go everywhere we go,” Resource Officer Chad Parrish from the Farmington Police Department said.
They purchased ten so every patrol officer wears one while on duty. Protocol requires officers turn them on any time they deal with the public or turn on lights and sirens.
“I really don’t see any cons besides the extra step getting ready in the morning,” Parrish said.
And, Farmington Police like that the cams keeps their officers in check too.
“If an officer does do anything wrong we’ve got video of that,” Parrish said.
We reached out to law enforcement in the major cities and counties in Northwest Arkansas. There is no law requiring police to have these cameras.
See where your area falls:
Fayetteville: Received a $51,000 grant.
Springdale: Uses in-car dash cam video and connected body audio. Springdale has applied for body cam grant.
Rogers: Uses in-car dash cam video and connected body audio. Will not look into now.
Statement from Rogers: “Body cams are something we have looked into but have decided not to pursue at this time. We feel there are still too many concerns and unknowns surrounding their use. We continue to monitor developments with this technology and issues related to it. Privacy concerns for the public and police need to be ironed out prior to the significant investment of taxpayer dollars into a system that is yet unproven.
We have audio/video capability in all of our marked units that record contacts now. Until such time as the unanswered questions are addressed we will continue with the system we have in place.”
Benton County: Uses in-car dash cam video and connected body audio. Sees necessity, but there are budget constraints. Benton County will consider after the first of the year when a new Sheriff takes office.
Washington County: Uses in-car dash cam video and connected body audio. Washington County has applied for the same grant as Springdale and Fayetteville. They are getting new dash cams that will come with body cams, but they are currently being built so there is no timeline.
PART TWO: The role body cameras play in officer involved shooting investigations and the laws behind releasing these videos to the public. .