ACU Police Department is staying up-to-date with recent technology trends by utilizing body-worn video cameras for all officers. Dash-cam video has been standard for a number of years for law enforcement. Body cams have become more prevalent in recent years, said ACUPD Chief of Police Jimmy Ellison.
“A lot of recent controversial situations have brought to light the expectation of some sort of accountability mechanism for police departments to have. Body cameras are the answer to that right now,” Ellison said.
ACUPD is a full-service police department, so it makes sure to not only comply with current laws, but also meet public expectations. The implementation of this new technology is one way for ACUPD to stay ahead of both tech curves and what the public expects from an accountability perspective, Ellison said.
The cameras were implemented department-wide at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. The units were purchased in the spring of 2015, with field testing taking place over the summer.
ACUPD purchased 18 body-cam units, a number is enough for each officer, both full- and part-time, to always have one, with spares in case repairs are needed. Each camera is assigned and issued to each officer individually. All video and audio captured by the devices is recorded per date, per officer, per shift and downloaded to be stored each day. At the end of their shift, each officer uploads captured footage to a secure database that ACUPD maintains.
“Officers do not have the capability to alter or delete video off of the camera,” Ellison said. “Once the camera captures video, it’s captured and maintained for 30 days.” After 30 days, any video not related to an open case or complaint is permanently deleted. If it is related, it is tagged and filed. Because footage is deleted after 30 days, a mountain of data will not build up, but that time period is also a reasonable window for any cases or complaints to be brought out, Ellison said. ACUPD’s body-cam policy is designed so that any video they have will hold up in court and so their retention policy will meet state and national best practice policies.
ACUPD purchased its units from Martel Electronics, a national law enforcement and military video technology company. The cameras are highly durable, are water and shock proof, and can record in both day and night settings. They have one-button activation, record standard .mpeg files and have the ability of recording video and audio, audio only or still shots.
In a few incidents, body cameras have proven beneficial in evidentiary and use-of-force matters. Officers use a reasonable amount of discretion when operating the cameras, such as when to turn on and use during a call. Officers have been briefed on privacy and when to respect it, such as in a residential setting.
The cameras themselves are relatively discrete. “People, by and large, tend to not even realize they are there. We’re certainly not trying to hide them. People expect to see cameras nowadays,” Ellison said. “This is not ACUPD being intrusive, this is ACUPD being responsive to technology in law enforcement, more importantly, this is ACUPD being responsive to public expectations, transparency and police department accountability.”
Police department accountability has been at the forefront of the national arena of law and public relations. By implementing this technology, ACUPD is showing the community they are being responsive, transparent and accountable, Ellison said.