BPS provides officers with body cameras

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2015

body camera

BPS officers now use body-worn cameras on the front of their uniforms. The cameras are manually turned on by sliding down a door that covers the lens. — Shelby Farmer

Bainbridge Public Safety officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras that they are required to use when interacting with citizens for official business.

City Manager Chris Hobby and BPS Director Chief Eric Miller acquired 36 cameras for each officer through partnering with a third party online public records management company, called RiskJockey, at no cost to the city. The cameras are valued at about $900 each.

“Following what’s happened in Ferguson [Missouri] and just the events that have happened in the country, the time’s just right,” Hobby said. “This is a debate that will go on, and it’s not going to go away.”

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Hobby said that he believes there is strong public support for body cameras now and that the city is being proactive in equipping its officers in a financially feasible way.

“I’m excited that we have them,” Hobby said. “I think it demonstrates that we’re proactive. We went out and looked at a way and found a way that we could afford to do this. We’re serious about making sure our officers are conducting themselves professionally, but we’re also serious about protecting our officers when they’re accused wrongly.”

Miller said that the new cameras will clear up “he said, she said” incidents and provide an unbiased look at what happened.

“It adds an extra level of safety and security for the officer,” Miller said. “There will be no question as to what the officer did or said or didn’t say, as it will be recorded. It helps not only protect but hold accountable the officers and their conduct. The other thing is that it helps us gather quite a bit of evidence that we would normally rely on the officers’ observations for. Video is an impartial, unbiased record of what happened.”

The cameras, which are worn on the officers’ chests, are manually operated by moving a sliding door that covers the lens. When an officer responds to a call or enters a business for police business, he is required to slide the door down, turning on the camera, Miller said.

The contract with RiskJockey is for one year, beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

Hobby said that he was drawn to the deal because it seemed to be very low-risk and would allow officers to use and test the cameras for a year at no cost.

“At the end of the year, [Miller or I] can decide we want to get out of it, so if we don’t like the way they’ve been handling the records management or if we’re not satisfied with the video quality, we only have a one-year, no-cost commitment,” Hobby said.