FRANKLIN, Ind. – The Franklin Police Department began installing their new body and in-car camera system this week, a move that Chief Kirby Cochran says will move the department into a more modern era of policing.
“It’s to provide a service to the community, be more transparent, and show that the community and the police department are going to work together,” Cochran said.
The Franklin City Council approved funding for the $565,000 camera and video storage system back in September. Delivery and installation was originally set for December, but was held up by COVID-related delivery and installation delays, the chief said.
All 53 officers and 43 squad cars are being fitted with the Body Worn cameras. Two cameras in each squad car will show what’s happening outside and inside the vehicle. For the officers, the uniform-mounted cameras consist of a fisheye lens that attaches to a Motorola phone and utilizes several Bluetooth and GPS sensors to trigger automatic activation.
The cameras will activate any time an officer pulls their weapon from its holster, takes off running, arrives lights and siren, or arrives at a call and opens car door. The system also has a manual activation button if the officer feels the need to start recording.
The Body Worn system is the same as the one now being used by IMPD, Lawrence Police and some other surrounding departments. This allows the devices to communicate and share location data with each other, even between different departments, said Franklin Police Captain Scott Carter.
“It is fully integrated with our cars and other agencies that use this system,” Carter said.
If, for example, an IMPD officer were to enter a Franklin Police action zone, the IMPD officer’s Body Worn system would automatically activate, Carter said.
If the attached phone goes horizontal for more than 15 seconds, it sends out an “officer down” call.
“It sends an alert to every officer in the area that has that equipment and has it activated,” Cochran said. “It will pinpoint that location by GPS.”
Technology aside, Cochran believes the new system will move the Franklin Police Department more in line with current conversations about how police interact with the public. He says the plan to add the cameras was several years in the making and was not necessarily prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. However, he says the effort was expedited by national conversations about police reform and accountability that followed.
“We want to build a good strong relationship with the public, we want to show you that we have nothing to hide,” he said. “If you have officer complaints, we’re going to be able to go back and review them.”
Cochran also believes the camera and video system will be extremely valuable as a training tool.
“The piece I like about it, administratively, is the fact that we can take some of that video footage, we can learn from it,” Cochran said.