PERU, Ind. –The Peru Police Department just armored 28 officers with body cameras and they happen to be the first department in Miami County to do so.
“Our goal and our process or procedures is going to be that officers have to have their camera on with every citizen reaction,” said Peru Police Chief Michael Meeks.
The officers just finished up a three-week body camera training in June. Now, they’re putting them to use in the streets.
Chief Meeks says they’re operating with a goal in mind to police the police.
“We’re hoping that through that, it will help reduce false accusations against officers, maybe help us with our training as well and help with less court time. And even with use of force incidents.”
That includes when coming into contact with citizens in a traffic stop. With this new technology, officers have the ability to review footage in real-time on their cell phones, or they can go back and review later in the day to help with reports and accuracy.
Miami County prosecuting attorney Jeff Sinkovics says the technology is critical because there is a two-fold benefit. One is protection for the officer or citizen, and two it provides more accuracy.
“You know the old saying a picture is worth a thousand words, well the video is more so probably. And by having that ability when you have some controversy, to go to the video to see exactly what happened is invaluable as a prosecutor,” said Sinkovics.
In June, a man was shot and killed by an officer who did not have his body camera activated in South Bend. This incident is one reason Chief Meeks has required officers to record every single interaction regardless if it’s an OWI arrest or traffic stop. Attorney Sinkovics agrees, saying it lessens the possibility of human error.
“A lot of people are not trusting in other people’s words, whether it’s a citizen or an officer, unfortunately. And you have the video, that’s going to answer most questions,” said Sinkovics.
The Peru Police Department is on a five-year plan that costs them $16,700 per year. The footage is held for 190 days and up to five years in criminal cases that involve felonies or misdemeanors. The prosecutor's office also has access to that footage.
Chief Meeks says they’re still working out a few kinks but overall they are excited at the new level of responsibility this brings to those in the department.
“It’s nice to know you have that insurance on your body and that you’re recording everything,” he said.