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Friday, June 9, 2017

Police Department Presents Body Cam Policy

Fort Thomas Police received funding grant to purchase 23 ProVision body cameras
by Robin Gee

The Fort Thomas Police Department has secured funding and is moving ahead with its new body cam program. Earlier this year city council approved the purchase of 23 cameras for officers. In addition to exploring makes, models and technical needs, the department also researched grant opportunities to cover the estimated $7,000 price tag.

This fall, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded Fort Thomas a grant of nearly $6,000 through its Body-Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Project (PIP). As part of the grant, police departments are paired with experts and provided extensive resources to aid in the development of policies, technical support and other issues associated implementation of a body cam program.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Police Department Will Be Getting Body Cameras

Grant recipients are required to have a body cam policy in place. At its June 2 meeting, city council heard a first reading of an ordinance amending the Fort Thomas Police Department policy and procedure manual to include body cam policies.

Sgt. William Hunt presented background and updates on the body cam program to council at the meeting. He started by thanking fellow officer Lt. James Gadzala who researched and found the funding grant.

He said the support the department has received through the grant program goes well beyond financials. The department was partnered with body cam expert Harold Medlock, retired chief of police for Fayetteville, North Carolina, as well as a research scientist for assistance with development of the program.

Policy and procedures

The department was required to pass a certain percentage of a 65-point policy scorecard. Sgt. Hunt reached out to area business owners, schools and hospital officials and others in the community to address concerns and gauge reaction to the use of body cams. He also spoke with other departments who are developing or have policies in place. Thanks to this research and the support of the policy experts, Fort Thomas met 100 percent of the scorecard points on its final policy draft.

Body cam policies address a variety of issues including appropriate and safe use of body cams; who, what, when and how video is recorded; how long video records are kept; where they are kept and policies for purging old videos.

Council member Roger Peterman asked how people are informed of recording, how police determine what to record and how decisions to turn on or turn off cameras are made and will be recorded.

Cameras must be worn in the direct line of sight, explained Sgt. Hunt. Many of the policies for body cams are similar to those in place for dashboard cameras. Officers are required to include information on camera use in their reports, and reports are subject to supervisory review.

Technology needs 

The department decided to save money by keeping video onsite on a separate dedicated server instead of uploading it to the cloud, he said. The department has purchased one terabyte of storage based on nine officers per day making three to four hours of recordings. This will be adjusted as the program develops and needs are clearer. Length of storage for different offenses is also included in the policies.

Sgt. Hunt demonstrated some of the different makes and models tested by the department including a small clip-on camera and video camera glasses. ProVision cameras were found to be the best choice. They can be clipped to pockets or worn on an external vest carrier.

Once the policy amendment ordinance is passed by council, the department will begin with implementation, equipment set up and training.

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