Lawrence police to wear body cameras as part of new program

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LAWRENCE, Ind.-- Rookie Patrolman Devin Randle will be among the first Lawrence Police officers to wear a body camera and drive a patrol car equipped with two cameras as part of the city’s innovated program to assure officer accountability and provide evidence of department interactions with the public.

“I think that it shows that we have to make split second decisions. Our decision making is on point. If we make the wrong decision, we can get in a lot of trouble, so I think it will open their eyes somewhat,” said Randle as he displayed the body camera for reporters. “I think it will put peoples’minds at ease and, ‘Okay, that did look really bad, but the camera shows that he had to make that decision.’”

Lawrence Police Chief David Hofmann said his department will spend $60,000 in the coming year to equip 44 officers and their cars.

“Our cost for implementing this program in the city of Lawrence is less than what the average officer is going to spend at McDonald’s for his lunch on a daily basis,” said Hofmann regarding the monthly $160 cost. ”We own the video, the audio, we have unlimited cloud storage, no extra charge, we have the ability with unbelievable redaction software to blur out faces and sensitive information like license plates or driver’s license information that shows up on video.”

Hoffman said the city won’t buy the equipment but is instead paying for the service of the BodyWorn system.

“We are essentially a software company so we are not an engineering hardware company necessarily so we have the ability to do some things that other vendors can’t do,” said Mark Wood, a former IMPD captain who vetted several body camera solutions before retiring to represent Utility & Associates, an Atlanta-based firm. “We have overcome issues of real time connectivity in the field which we provide.”

Randle demonstrated the integrated system which coordinates activation and feeds of not only his body camera but two interior cameras in his car to record the officer’s front windshield view and to monitor the back seat where handcuffed offenders ride.

The system can be voice or manually or action activated with a GPS feature to allow dispatchers to pinpoint the location of a wounded officer.

The car’s cameras become operable once the vehicle’s overhead lights are turned on.

IMPD is in the final stages of reviewing proposals by several body camera providers and may consider a stripped down version of the BodyWorn system at a cost of $84 per month per officer.

The department’s 2016 budget set aside $250,000 for a body camera system, but that money was never spent as IMPD awaited guidance from state lawmakers on the use of body cameras and researchers wrestled with expensive and cumbersome data storage issues.

Mayor Joe Hogsett has set aside a similar appropriation for an IMPD 2017 body camera project which would outfit only a fraction of the department’s patrol officers.

“What does it mean to wait on this technology and potentially incur some type of critical incident that may be under a microscope?” asked Wood.  “It's transparency for all involved, the officer and the public. It's about accountability for both the officer and the public. It's about building community relations with the public and, at the end of the day, it's about building trust between the officer and the public.”

When an IMPD officer wounded an armed east side man Tuesday morning, mistaking him for a carjacking suspect, the veteran patrolman was not wearing a body camera which could have provided evidence of the confusion investigators said was present in the pre-dawn darkness.

“What would a lawsuit that incurs as a result of something like that, what would a lawsuit result in in terms of financial responsibility?” Wood speculated. “My guess is what they’re paying for our system would be a whole lot less than a lawsuit that incurs.”

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