FWPD gets funding for about 100 body cameras

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Fort Wayne Police Department has been awarded a grant for the use of body cameras on officers.

“In a relatively short period of time you’ll see officers with the Fort Wayne Police Department donning these body cameras,” Spokesperson for the Fort Wayne Police Department Michael Joyner said.

The $126,585 grant is part of a $23.2 million investment from the United States Department of Justice. The grants require a 50/50 match and the department is responsible for developing a plan to store the video and pay for that storage.

More police wearing body cameras as 'insurance'The department will include that funding in its budget, which will have to be approved by City Council, according to Joyner.

“It’s proven itself in other communities. I don’t see that it’s going to be a huge obstacle for council to sit back and realize how important and how necessary this technology is for law enforcement moving forward,” Joyner said.

United States Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch made the announcement Monday. 73 agencies in 32 states were given money for equipment and training on the use of body cameras. The move is part of a body-worn camera pilot program announced in May, a result from President Obama’s proposal to purchase 50,000 cameras over the next 3 years.

The funding will allow the FWPD to get about 100 body cameras. The cameras will be given to officers in various shifts working in each of the city’s four quadrants. It will stay with its specific officer. The exact date of when the department will start using the cameras has not been released. Joyner said FWPD hasn’t made a decision on a vendor to supply the cameras yet.

According to Jon Bonar, Preseident of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, there are still some logistics that the department will need to sort out.

“We need to figure out if we are suppose to have it on right when we walk in the door or if we are suppose to turn it on and have it on before we get to the scene,” said Bonar. “I mean we’ve got to sit down with the police administration and work out exactly how these are suppose to be used.”

Bonar also said wearing the cameras could potentially pose a threat to people’s right to privacy.

“We walk into peoples houses sometimes and it’s not in the best condition,” he said. “I think we have to be careful to make sure that people still have their privacy as enacted under the constitution.”

There’s also the question of how to store all the data from the body cameras. It could be quite a hefty price tag for the department– possibly millions of dollars.

“You’ve got hundreds of thousands of hours that you need to store,” he said. “I know it’s very expensive to store media. And how long are we going to store it for? A year? Two years? Six months?”

Joyner indicated FWPD’s grant will last for two years. He expects the department to continue to get additional cameras for more officers with other grants in the future. He said officers having body cameras is a make sense approach to protecting police and the community.

“It goes beyond officer safety. It’s a record of what took place, not only the video, but also it captures audio,” he said. “It removes any suspicion of one side being more honest than the other.”

An officer displays a body camera, used to capture video evidence of police calls.
An officer displays a body camera, used to capture video evidence of police calls.

West Lafayette is the only other department in Indiana to receive money. No departments in Northwest Ohio will benefit from the grants.

“This vital pilot program is designed to assist local jurisdictions that are interested in exploring and expanding the use of body-worn cameras in order to enhance transparency, accountability and credibility,” said Lynch. “The impact of body-worn cameras touches on a range of outcomes that build upon efforts to mend the fabric of trust, respect and common purpose that all communities need to thrive.”

Click here to see the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s website for answers to questions about the how the body camera program works.

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