RELIABLE WITNESS: Sheriff’s department to acquire sophisticated body cams

by Kristy Deer

HANCOCK COUNTY — One day soon, when a deputy from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department pulls out a weapon, a built-in uniform body camera will automatically record every move. Should that officer go down, an instant alert will be sent to other deputies and dispatchers.

Sheriff Brad Burkhart has received permission from the Hancock County Council to move forward with plans to spend an estimated $798,000 for the cameras and other associated equipment. The cameras could be in use as soon as the new year. A company from Atlanta, Utility Inc., will provide its BodyWorn system, described as state-of-the-art technology capable of detecting gunshots and sending out alerts. The purchase also will include new in-car cameras, mobile routers, mobile digital multimedia evidence management systems and cloud storage.

Hancock County police agencies already use in-car dashboard cameras. Police departments in Fortville and New Palestine use body cameras, but the BodyWorn system will be the most advanced technology in use here.

The purchase comes as police departments nationwide have grappled with public scrutiny and transparency over conduct of officers. Burkhart argues the sheriff’s department has needed such technology for years. With the construction of the new jail, the timing was right to acquire new interrogation room recording equipment, as well as body-worn and updated in-car cameras for all deputies.

“This service hits every area that needs to be hit,” Burkhart said. “The days of telling what happened without video are gone.”

Department officials plan to purchase, via a bond, 54 body-worn cameras as part of a bundle package to go along with in-car cameras for all deputies. They’ll also get an additional 28 body-worn cameras for deputies at the Hancock County Jail and Hancock County Courthouse. The service will also provide equipment for four interrogation rooms, including at Zoey’s Place, the new child advocacy center.

The Lawrence Police Department in Marion County was one of the first law enforcement departments in Indiana to use the Utility BodyWorn equipment.

Gary Woodruff, deputy chief and public information officer for the Lawrence Police Department, said the camera system went online in January 2017. The department has been pleased with how the body cameras work and help officers.

“There’s just a lot of good attributes with this type of body cam, and that’s a comfort to our officers,” Woodruff said.

The body-worn cameras act as an objective eyewitness, he said, providing key evidence should an incident occur.

Lawrence officers like the automatic activation whenever an officer has an encounter. The devices are also conveniently sized and unobtrusive: They are essentially cellphones and are fitted right into officers’ uniforms so they won’t fall off or end up pointing in the wrong direction.

“They can’t become disengaged like a lot of models out there, and that’s a big deal,” Woodruff said. “The cameras are always pointing in the same direction the officer is headed.”

Once the Sheriff’s Department’s cameras are online, Burkhart and other sheriff’s officials will be able to view digital footage from anywhere.

“It’s all cloud-based, and that’s the other big thing that makes this so great: We don’t have to handle storing all that footage,” Burkhart said.

Storage ends up usually being a major cost driver in video-based programs, Burkhart noted.

With a service, Sheriff’s officials don’t have to worry about storage, and if a piece of equipment malfunctions, the company will provide a replacement at no cost to the department.

Officials from the prosecutor’s office will also have access to footage for building cases, eliminating a step where sheriff’s officials have to download the evidence and burn a DVD, Burkhart said.

The New Palestine and Fortville police departments already have body cameras, but they are older units. Patrick Bratton, public information officer for the Fortville Police Department, said the cameras have been valuable.

“We previously had in-car cameras, but they did not cover all of the areas we wanted to look at — strictly just the front of the car,” Bratton said.

The McCordsville Police Department and the Greenfield Police Department do not have body-worn cameras. GPD officials are looking into purchasing them as soon as they can figure out the funding.

“Obtaining body cameras for our officers is at the forefront of our projects list,” deputy chief Matt Holland said.

At a glance

Five-year service for body-worn, in-car cameras, interrogation room camera system with cloud-based storage and access.

Utility BodyWorn cameras are the only police body-worn cameras capable of detecting gunshots.

When the sound of a gunshot is detected, BodyWorn begins recording and recalls two minutes of audio and video prior to the incident.

BodyWorn automatically sends a call-for-help message, which includes reporting the officer’s location to dispatchers and to all officers within proximity.

Includes a smart-holster sensor which detects the moment a firearm is removed from its holster, activating BodyWorn and sending real-time alerts to dispatchers and nearby officers.

BodyWorn is able to start and stop recording based on conditions such as a police car’s light bar being turned on and its door being opened.


Source: Daily Reporter