Paducah Police wanting to purchase body cameras

Paducah Police want to be able to better protect you and their officers. Chief Brandon Barnhill says they’ve selected a company to buy body cameras from and have secured funding. Now they’re waiting on city commissioners to approve the purchase.

Tuesday night, Paducah city commissioners approved the first reading for a contract with TASER International.

Paducah Police Chief Brandon Barnhill says the contract includes 67 body cameras and 10 docking stations. When the cameras are placed on the docking stations, the cameras automatically upload video recorded during that time period onto cloud storage through TASER. That cuts on administrative and server costs. Other body camera systems have you manually plug in and upload footage. This causes some departments to have to hire someone exclusively to manage hours of video.

Through a cloud system, video can also be sent to those who request it through links rather than DVDs.

“The benefit is huge —the benefit to the community, benefit to the officer,” Barnhill said.

He says every officer below a captain rank will wear one. Money issues are mainly the reason for not supplying a camera for the remaining 11 officers.

The cost of the five-year contract is $105,000 for the first year, and $45,000 each year after that. The chief said they had budgeted for $112,000. They’re using money set aside from their last fiscal budget to pay for the equipment. They also received confirmation of a grant Tuesday for about $11,000 to help bring down the cost. The chief says they will be applying for other grants as they become available.

Barnhill says other agencies using them have found them effective.

“That the officers have been better protected, that the community gets a better understanding of what the officers are dealing with. The audio which we have on the in-car camera system is now within the [body] video camera, so it’s in the same format,” Barnhill said.

The dash cam video and body camera video will essentially be married together, so you can get a more accurate real-time account of what took place.

Barnhill says the cameras also help with accountability of both the officer and citizen.

“The agencies that implemented them have said their officer complaints have reduced. Their explanation of why they’ve been reduced is because now the perpetrators in the community understand they’re being recorded. So, therefore they can’t come down here and make allegations that may be false against the officerThey know everything that they do, say, has a potential for coming back to having them articulate why they did that or why they said that and the reduced complaints are relieving a lot of the administrative burden for administrators,” Barnhill said.

While the cameras can help clarify incidents the chief says cameras won’t answer everything.

“The value is going to be huge, but I don’t want the community to get under the assumption these are going to solve poor policing practices because they don’t. A lot of communities have taken the stance thinking body cameras are going to solve all the issues that, you know, that are racially dividing  or that involve officers use of force and that’s just incorrect,” Barnhill said.

Anyone will be able to request the body camera video. However, it will be up to pending legislation, whether by law, those requesting the video will be allowed to have it. Also non-evidentiary video will be kept for 30 days, which is the time limit required by the state’s library and records archive commission. So, if there’s a complaint, it needs to be submitted in that time frame.

The second city commission reading is planned for September 15th.  If it’s approved the chief says it’ll be 60 days at best before officers are trained and wearing them. They have to account a 45-day policy for the company to set-up everything.

As far as statistics, the use of body cameras is relatively new so there is limited data on their use. The University of Cambridge released in December the first scientific study relating to crime and policing with body cameras.

It followed Rialto, California police for a year in 2012. During the experiment, use-of-force by officers wearing cameras fell by 59%, and reports against officers dropped by 87% compared to the previous year.

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