Franklin police body, car cameras are now rolling

By Leeann Doerflein – 3/7/21 7:03 PM

Franklin police’s new body-worn and in-car cameras are now rolling.

In-car cameras were installed in cars from mid-February to early March, and the full camera system went online Tuesday, after the city approved a policy for their use, said Scott Carter, captain at the Franklin Police Department.

The Franklin Board of Public Works and Safety approved the $598,984 camera system from Decatur, Ga.-based BodyWorn was approved last October, and unlimited cloud-based storage was included in the purchase price, said Kirby Cochran, police chief.

Now, all 53 police officers and 43 patrol cars begin recording automatically when encounters between the police and the public begin.

Car cameras start up when lights and sirens are engaged, while body-worn cameras begin recording when the car door is opened or when the body moves quickly on foot, Cochran said. Because the camera records in the background, the system retroactively adds 20 seconds of footage before the recording was triggered, he said.

Both cameras are integrated with the car’s CAD, or Computer Aided Dispatch, system, which enables full integration of the camera with other technology police use and prompts the camera to start recording, Cochran said.

All footage is automatically downloaded to the storage cloud when the cameras connect to WiFi, which officers are asked to do periodically during their shift, according to the body camera policy.

The BodyWorn system is one of the higher-end cameras on the market due to the automatic recording capabilities and CAD integration, Carter said.

What set this system apart was the automatic recording capability. That was important, Cochran said.

BodyWorn cameras are also used by police in Indianapolis and some nearby suburbs, Carter said.

The camera also has an “officer down” signaling capability that alerts Johnson County 911 and all nearby officers who have the BodyWorn system that an officer is potentially in peril. The signal is sent if the camera goes horizontal while recording for a set amount of seconds, which could help get backup and medical care to the officer more quickly, Cochran said.

Department leaders may also view real-time footage remotely to see why a situation may have prompted the signal, Cochran said.

The cameras were a goal of Cochran’s for some time and are aimed to protect both officers and the people they encounter on the job, he said. The footage is expected to help yield convictions in court cases and shed light on any situation surrounding police misconduct, he said.

“The camera is like an impartial witness,” Cochran said. “It could be that the officer has done something wrong and this would be a witness to that.”

The camera will record all public encounters, though officers can use discretion for sensitive situations. For example, this could include someone who wants to report a crime anonymously or is a witness to a child sex crime, he said.

Redaction software is also included with the system to blur the faces of victims or bystanders when the court or public request footage, Cochran said.

Footage will be available for public viewing upon request, but not all footage will be a public record, Carter said. For example, footage that is part of an ongoing investigation or was shot inside private property would not be available for public viewing, he said.

A process to obtain access to footage and public access fee are still in the works, Carter said. Requests will likely be submitted to a specific public records email that staff will monitor, he said.

“We want the public to know that we are out there and we are recording,” Cochran said. “We want to be as transparent as we can.”