Deputies with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department will be outfitted with body cameras as part of a new surveillance program deployed this week.
“I’m a total advocate of the body cam,” Sheriff Craig DuMond said. “It’s an excellent resource to maintain the integrity of what we do and to maintain complete transparency with the public.”
Body cameras, also known as body-worn cameras, are worn on the chests of law enforcement officers as part of their regular uniforms and used to document what they see while performing their duties.
The department budgeted approximately $10,500 for 15 cameras to be worn by patrol deputies, according to DuMond, who said he plans to eventually expand the program to outfit deputies throughout the department.
The cameras will not be recording at all times, but will document most interactions with the public, from routine traffic stops to more serious investigations, DuMond said.
The devices are programmed to begin recording when the emergency lights on a patrol car are activated, and will also record when deputies take witness statements.
The road patrol lieutenant will have access to the footage, which may be reviewed periodically for performance evaluation and can also be presented as evidence in court cases, DuMond said.
“It’s the perfect witness,” he said. “It doesn’t have motivations, it doesn’t take sides — it’s a clear and concise account of the events that took place.”
The footage is "on the side of law enforcement 99% of the time,” DuMond said. Referencing what he described as a national anti-police movement, he said body camera footage has helped to vindicate officers who were the subjects of false or overstated complaints from the public.
A 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and conducted with officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department found that members of the public submitted fewer complaints of officer misconduct, and the video record protected police from “frivolous” complaints. Officers who wore them more than 14% less likely to be called out in citizen complaints than those who did not, according to the report.
The findings also indicated police are more proactive in preventing crime when wearing cameras. In addition to providing “compelling evidence” to build legal cases, the use of body cameras “largely affirmed and validated positive officer behavior,” according to the study.
The study found that body-worn cameras also reduced use-of-force incidents, yielding significant cost savings when less time and money are spent on investigations. The report estimated net savings per camera-wearing officer to fall between $2,909 and $3,178 annually.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody — for law enforcement and for the community,” DuMond said. “In these times, you’d be foolish not to have the body cameras.”
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.