RCPD, KSUPD to implement body-worn cameras this year

The Digital Ally: First View HD body cameras are already being used by the KSU Police to aid in the accurate documentation of their interactions with the public. In November, the RCPD will follow suit and begin utilizing the same technology. (Hannah Hunsinger | The Collegian)

Officers of the Riley County Police Department will soon accompany the K-State Police Department in implementing the use of body-worn cameras on officers.

KSUPD began testing body-worn cameras towards the end of August, according to university police Capt. Don Stubbings.

“We’ve purchased five right now that we’re still working with the officers on (finding) the best use of the cameras in the best situations,” Stubbings said.

Stubbings said body-worn cameras enable officers to keep more accurate recordings of interactions with the public and any incidents that may occur. They can then match these with written reports to ensure an accurate portrayal of events.

When will they be in use?

RCPD plans on beginning the trial phase of 11 cameras in early November, in order to test the new technology.

Police Capt. Tim Hegarty, coordinator of the body-worn camera project, said the move towards body-worn cameras was an attempt to stay current with regards to the technology used by police departments across the country.

“When someone goes to trial, the jury expects a video and when there’s not a video they wonder, ‘Why isn’t there a video?’” Hegarty said.

Hegarty said RCPD wanted to be prepared for the future and update their capabilities now, rather than have changes forced upon the department if and when an incident does happen.

While the overarching reasons for both police departments might be similar, a big reason for RCPD’s move to implement body-worn cameras is due to the in-car cameras that RCPD currently uses, which are nearing the end of their lifespan.

“We’re having trouble finding parts to replace things that are broke,” Mat Droge, public information officer for RCPD, said. “Audio recording components are becoming harder to find charging devices for, so we’re just evaluating if body-worn cameras can be a replacement to in-car cameras.”

Hegarty said the body-worn cameras will be mobile and on the officer’s uniform, which will show more accurately what the officer sees and does in a scenario. This is an advantage over the in-car cameras that are unable to record anything happening beyond the front of the car.

The trial phase of the body-worn cameras will determine if they are an adequate replacement for the in-car cameras.

Who will use them?

The KSUPD currently uses five, Digital Ally FirstVu HD cameras that can be worn on the officer’s uniform. The cameras come from the same company that currently manufactures KSUPD’s in-car cameras, allowing for better adaptability with software and servers that currently store their videos.

Stubbings said KSUPD’s goal is to have all 21 officers to be fitted with body-worn cameras as soon as the university’s budget enables them to do so.

“There are five that we are using for different officers that are assigned specifically,” Stubbings said. “They are being used to see what the best implementation strategy will be once we get enough body-cameras for all the officers.”

The RCPD plans to use the Flex brand of Cameras by TASER International that will clip on to the officers eyewear. Of the 11 cameras the RCPD will use in its trial, eight will be distributed to officers who do not have access to in-car cameras such as the officers patrolling Aggieville and bike cops. The remaining three will go to whichever officers are covering the three individual shifts that must be covered at all times. The commander of that shift will have permission to determine which of his officers wear the cameras.

Droge said the results of the trial will also determine how widespread the use of the cameras would be. While body-worn cameras have become cheaper, the cost of storing and managing the data recorded by the cameras still make it a sizable investment. This could limit the number of cameras purchased or, at least, increase the time frame in which additional cameras might be acquired.

Although there has been increased scrutiny on police officers in the country due to complaints of excessive force, Stubbings, Droge and Hagerty said the move towards body-worn cameras was not influenced by the national dialogue.

“When we started down this road a year ago, none of what is in the news now was in the news,” Hagerty said.

Olga McAlpine, junior in elementary education, said while body-worn cameras didn’t necessarily change her attitudes towards the police, it does make her feel more safe. Other students shared concurring feelings.

“I think it’s obsessive and kinda nerve-racking that you’re on camera every time you see a police officer, but it’s also securing because you can see that they’re not doing what they’re not supposed to be doing,” Khenady Gaines, freshman in finance, said.

Stubbings said at the end of the day, body-worn cameras allow police officers to perform their jobs more efficiently by providing them and their departments with a more accurate portrayal of their reality.