BY JILL TATGE-ROZELL, Mar 4, 2021
The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department is on track to have body cameras in place by May, Captain Justin Miller told members of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Committee on Wednesday night.
“It is moving along smoothly,” Miller said. “It’s just a lot of coordinating and planning to make sure everything gets implemented, hopefully by May.”
Representatives from BodyWorn by UTILITY, the company the KSD has contracted with, will be in Kenosha County on March 23 to tour police facilities in advance of implementation, Miller said.
“They are coming on April 26 to start installing squad car cameras and get the training underway on how to use the camera systems,” Miller said. “They will be delivering some of our gear before that date.”
Committee members were receptive to an idea by Sheriff David Beth that representatives from BodyWorn give a demonstration to the committee about how the cameras work.
“You guys are going to be impressed by the system we’ve chosen,” Beth said.
For example, the system includes a list of automated triggers that can be used to turn the cameras on, including holster, open door, light bar and foot pursuit activation. Also, in the event that an officer has become prone in the field and is in need of backup, BodyWorn starts an automatic recording, alerts all nearby officers and sends a call-for-help message that includes the officer’s GPS coordinates.
The County Board approved $425,000 as part of the 2021 budget to purchase the equipment and launch the program under a five-year contract.
As part of the contract, new uniforms made specifically to hold the body cameras will be purchased. However, Miller said the department has also sent existing uniforms and vests out to be retrofitted for use with the cameras, which look much like a cell phone.
“That was our first step in the process of implementation,” Miller said. “We got all of the vest carriers back already, which is ahead of schedule.”
In the meantime, a body camera-use policy has been drafted and is being reviewed.
“We are still vetting that policy within the department and with Corporation Counsel,” Miller said. “We’re fairly close to having that complete.”
Among other things, the policy will spell out when the camera needs to be turned on, when it can be off and who will have access to it.
Eventually, video will be stored on the amazon.gov cloud, which is the same cloud platform used by the U.S. Government. The video will have a centered watermark that displays the name of the person who released it.
Beth said, as with any technology, there could be issues.
“My fear is when something doesn’t work, it’s going to be a conspiracy theory,” Beth told the committee members. “It’s going to be, ‘You did this on purpose. You intentionally turned it off.’”
He said the hands-on demonstration will be a great way for officials to get any questions answered that they may have about the system.