City closer to body cameras

By Alanea White

The Pine County Sheriff’s Office and the Pine County Board of Commissioners are taking another step toward the use of body cameras and utility squad cameras for Pine County deputies. 

Utility Associates was determined to have best product at the lowest cost, and a five year contract for $380,000 with Utility Associates, Inc will be negotiated based on the recommendation by the board. A concern raised by the board was that needing to turn on the cameras and process footage would add responsibilities to the officers. The technology provided by Utility Associates addressed these concerns. 

Utility Associates uses a cell phone platform that is integrated into the uniform. External clothing can be modified to add the body worn cameras, which are housed in an internal pocket on these items of clothing. Creating a system to modify uniforms is included in the contract with Utility Associates.  System sensors automate many of the features of the body camera including camera activation and GPS. Features that automatically activate recordings on body cameras include: foot pursuit activation which activates the camera when the officer is running, holster sensors will activate the camera when weapons are drawn. This feature also notifies all active duty officers and dispatch with GPS coordinates to this body camera and policy-based recording can also be activated when specifications are set. BodyWorn Down is a feature that allows the camera to check on the officer wearing the camera after a specified period of time when the camera is in a horizontal position. The camera will require the officer to verbally respond to audio prompts within a set period, if the officer does not respond it will send turn by turn directions and notifications to all active duty officers and dispatch. 

Squad car cameras are also included in the proposed contract. This is all one inclusive system, body cameras use connections with squad cameras to upload to the cloud integrated. The system covers the inside of the vehicle both front and back seat, and externally. When lights and sirens are activated the squad camera is also activated for recording. As soon as the car door is opened the system can be set up to begin recording on the body camera. These are all set up on policy basis, using parameters from the sheriff’s department. Actions Zones, or areas of concern or large events can be activated, this would cause cameras to automatically be active in mapped locations. The example given at the meeting would be a concert at the Grand Casino Hinckley. 

A map overlay is also provided on camera footage, so that specific GPS locations can be tagged. This would be used for evidence collection. Uploading to the cloud is very rapid, and playback live can also happen. 

One concern was redaction. According to statues redaction of faces and voices is required for audio and video in certain situations. Utility Associates products have redaction software built into the system, other programs had more complicated systems for redaction. Raw video is always kept so that redactions can be removed if necessary. 

Media release links can also be made available for video. County Attorney access can also be allowed. This makes dissemination of information with customizable access. 

Other video sources, from video surveillance can also be incorporated into these releases. Audio features are also available on the body cameras. Access can be from any computer, it is web-based for immediate review. 

Funding for the contract will come from the Technology Fund initially and will then be budgeted into the General Fund annually. The total for the contract is for five-years with a cost of $380,000, moving forward negotiations for the contract will take place. There could be some slight changes to the contract, but the limitation for approved funding set by the County Board of Commissioners was $380,000.

SOURCE: Pine City Pioneer