The body cam question — CPD has them, BCSD still trying to obtain them

Columbus police officer Kelly Holley displays how she wears her body camera on her uniform during a demonstration at the Columbus Police Department, Thursday, March 3, 2016. A year ago the Columbus Police Department purchased 65 body cameras for their patrol officers. Holley, an 11 year veteran of the Columbus Police Department, helped the department evaluate the different types of body camera systems in 2014. Mike Wolanin | The Republic Mike Wolanin | The Republic

An announcement earlier this week that Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers plans to ask the county commissioners and county council to purchase body cameras for his deputies has shown a striking difference between the two local law enforcement agencies.

Columbus Police officers have worn body cameras since 2015 and in-car cameras for more than 20 years, said Chief Mike Richardson.

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department currently has neither.

“We think we need (body cameras),” said Chief Deputy Maj. Chris Lane of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department. “We’ve always thought it was something that we needed.”

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The sheriff’s department has been researching the cost of body cameras and storage systems for the videos for several months.

County law enforcement officials met with BodyWorn a couple months ago to review their products and have looked at body camera systems from Axon, which provides body cameras to CPD, Lane said.

Lane said the sheriff’s department expects to hear from a third company later this week.

“The expense of the camera systems is the data storage, being able to store that video,” Lane said. “That information has to be stored someplace. Either you have a server that stores it, or you store it on a cloud-based system. Weve got to research all that stuff.”

On Thursday, Myers announced that the purchase of body cameras for all full-time county deputies is “non-negotiable priority” when his department proposes its new budget to the Bartholomew County Council later this year.

Body cameras provide valuable information after a call to show the facts, Myers said in a statement.

So far, CPD officers have been “glad” to have body cameras “because the camera doesn’t lie and it proves the officer right 99% of the time,” Richardson said.

CPD has enough body cameras for each officer to have two in case the battery runs out on one of them.

“(Officers) are required to have them on any time they are communicating with the community,” Richardson said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of call it is. You don’t know what way a call is going to go. Anytime they’re communicating with the community, their body cameras are to be on.”

Currently, it is unclear how many body cameras the sheriff’s department would seek to purchase or when a system would be installed and ready to use if funding is approved, Lane said.

“There are 45 total deputies, but we have other corrections staff assigned to the courthouse,” Lane said. “We have reserve deputies. We have transport officers from the jail. We have civil process servers who go out and serve civil process. So we got to look at the whole big picture here of how to present this in the budget. It’s more than just the normal road deputy. There are other things that we do other than just that.”