IMPD body cams on the way; vendor highlights automatic recording

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INDIANAPOLIS — City leaders announced Monday that IMPD officers should begin wearing body-worn cameras in July.

The department said their goal is to equip 100 officers per week with the technology.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and the city-county council included $1.2 million in the 2020 budget after years of pilot programs and studies. The city has now selected BodyWarn by Utility as their vendor. The company says they also provide the technology to the Lawrence Police Department.

“An officer, in the course of their duty, they have to draw their weapon, there’s a bluetooth connection from a sensor on their holster right to the body camera,” Jason Dombkowski explained. “It turns it on the moment the weapon is drawn.”

Dombkowski is the director of law enforcement relations for BodyWarn by Utility. He underscored the camera’s advantage of automatic record without the officer needing to touch any buttons.

“We turn the camera on automatically,” Dombkowski explained. “We do that in a number of ways, allowing for technology to take care of that so the officer doesn’t have to.”

Dombkowski said the other features the company’s cameras offer include automatic recording from the time the officer is dispatched on a call and when an officer begins a foot pursuit.

“The camera comes on instantaneously, automatically while they run,” Dombkowski explained. “The pre-record can give the reason why that chase started and then continue throughout the chase and the outcome.”

Dombkowski also discussed the feature of the pre-record on the body-worn cameras, which captures up to two minutes of audio and video before an officer’s weapon is drawn.

“In the heat of the moment, that whole story needs to be told and often is the difference in the outcome of a situation,” Dombkowski said.

Dombkowski claims manipulation of the video is not a concern as video is offloaded into a secure cloud.

“It’s instantaneously, as live time as it’s occurring, being offloaded into the Amazon AWS cloud,” Dombkowski explained. “That live time offload allows for security instantaneously. It exists in the cloud with no ability for an officer or anybody to manipulate the video.”

The city is now working on a body worn camera policy for the department.

Chief Ed Gebhart with the Fishers Police Department said the roll out of body cameras is an appropriately slow process. Fishers PD is in its first year of implementing the body cameras for officers on the street.

“You have a lot of things you have to work through,” Gebhart explained. “So if you rush a part of the process, and you just put equipment out there just for sake of checking a box, you won’t do it right. You won’t set your policy right, your officers will have issues with the equipment. You’ll cost the taxpayers a huge amount of money that didn’t need to be because what you’ll do is you’ll end up implementing another technology, and that’ll be another cost in itself.”

Gebhart said this footage could go to court as part of a case at some point, so you want to make sure you have proper training and policy in place from the start.

“If there’s some reason there’s no footage because technology’s down, then you’re seen as something’s not right with the agency, or it didn’t download right, or it didn’t get in correctly, or it didn’t get presented correctly,” Gebhart explained. “There’s a chain of custody, there’s an evidence issue, there’s all kinds of things that go in. And yeah, you’re submitting evidence to a very dramatic, could even be tragic, case that you’ve just got to get right.”

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