Mayor Joe Hogsett, Chief Bryan Roach kick-off stakeholder-driven study of body worn cameras

INDIANAPOLIS – Mayor Joe Hogsett and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Chief Bryan Roach announced the start of a process to study the feasibility of a body worn camera program for Indianapolis. The process is designed to be community- and stakeholder-driven, seeking feedback from both neighborhoods and rank-and-file officers during a technology pilot period.

“The most important difference with this body camera pilot is that, for the first time, the community will take part in the assessment,” said Mayor Hogsett. “In this way, we can build the trust, the transparency, and the tools to implement a quality body camera program.”

Over the coming months, IMPD will launch an extensive community engagement process designed to maximize resident involvement in the study. IUPUI will administer a private web-based community survey to identify residents’ attitudes, expectations, and concerns regarding IMPD officers wearing body cameras. Community Resource District Councils, grassroots neighborhood organizations, and faith leaders will also help facilitate a series of listening sessions during the pilot period.

“A comprehensive pilot of body worn cameras will give our community a unique opportunity to make a collective decision around what other cities have seen as a solution that helps build trust and legitimacy,” said Chief Roach.

IMPD will publish a Request for Information from qualified vendors today, seeking to identify several products to deploy for a pilot of body worn camera technology. The selected vendor products will be tested by the officers who serve in the busiest shift on the largest districts – all beat officers and supervisors on North, East, and Southeast district middle shift will use the equipment to record video and audio of resident interactions that occur over the trial period. Officers participating in the pilot will test all vendor products and provide feedback to be collected and analyzed by IUPUI to assess both vendor technology and officer perceptions of the pilot program. The technology will be piloted at no cost to the City.

“The question is not whether body cameras for police are a good tool, but rather how can this technology be implemented in a manner that meets both community and IMPD expectations while balancing effective policy, personal privacy concerns and budget constraints,” said Dr. Jeremy Carter, Director of Criminal Justice and Public Safety and Associate Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI. “IMPD actively solicited a research partner to leverage data from the community and officers, as well as IMPD records systems, to independently inform these complex issues and best position the community and department to adopt body cameras.”

This will be a second, larger pilot of body worn camera technology within the IMPD. Prohibitive costs, outdated City technology infrastructure, a small sample size, as well as a lack of community buy-in were cited when a 2014 pilot did not result in the development of a permanent program. In the five years since, vendor offerings have increased, the City has invested millions of dollars in upgrading public safety technology infrastructure, and body worn camera products have advanced, significantly driving down costs. IMPD anticipates full deployment of a body worn camera program may cost between $2 – 3 million per year, including the lease of the equipment, cloud storage of audio and video data, maintenance, as well as the staffing and software to export and redact video. Most major vendor agreements include startup costs and do not require an upfront investment from the City.

During the trial period, IMPD will continue to turn to other cities to research and analyze the policies, procedures, and rollouts of successful body camera programs across the country. These national best practices will be married with stakeholder, community, and officer feedback collected during the trial period to refine a body worn camera policy for IMPD that maximizes the effectiveness of the technology and its benefits.

“Although body cameras alone cannot fix the long-term erosion of trust between police and community, I am very thankful to see Indianapolis gaining one additional tool for trust and healing. I also applaud City administrators and law enforcement agents for prioritizing a plan that is community-based first before cameras are implemented,” said Ashley Gurvitz, Community Development Manager at Eastern Star Church.

Some suggested benefits of a body worn camera program for large police departments across the country include: increasing transparency with the community, reducing complaints against police, and improving officer training. The equipment can serve as an added tool for both officers and residents, aiding in the accurate documentation of events, actions, conditions, and statements made during interactions between police and the community. The captured audio and video can assist in the prosecution of offenders as well as the investigation of citizen complaints. In December, veteran IMPD Captain Steve Turner was selected to oversee the pilot period as the department’s first body camera program manager.

About Brian Scott

I play on the radio from 7 am -1 pm weekdays on 98.9 WYRZ and WYRZ.org. Follow me on twitter @WYRZBrianScott or e-mail me at brian@wyrz.org.

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