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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - Committee yesterday hears testimony on potential legislation related to the use of police body cameras

Yesterday's Interim Study Committee on Government heard testimony on potential legislation related to the use of police body cameras.

Claire McInerny reported for Indiana Public Media:

West Lafayette’s police force has been using body cameras for about a year. Chief Jason Dombkowski says he used resources from, among others, the Department of Justice and the International Association of Chiefs of Police when developing a policy for those body cams. But he says, particularly on privacy concerns and redacting video, he’d like guidance from the legislature.

“You have interviews of victims and you have a public records request for that, there’s a balance that needs to be struck there.”

But Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer told a panel of lawmakers studying body cams that he opposes them altogether. Troyer says just the presence of the body cams creates what he calls “fear in our citizens.”

“They’re less apt to talk to that deputy about that incident in their neighborhood if they believe that that recording is going to somehow make its way to an unprotected environment or in the hands of other people.”

Brian Slodysko of the AP reported:
An urban versus rural split emerged among law enforcement groups Tuesday as a state legislative committee explored potential guidelines governing the use of police body cameras by Indiana’s police agencies.

Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer said he fears that mandatory cameras could trample on privacy protections and destroy the trust built up between his deputies and residents in the rural northeastern Indiana county.

“I had genuine fear of how that’s going to affect trust in my community,” said Troyer, who has banned his deputies from carrying their own body cameras. “Just the presence of those cameras creates fear in our people, in our citizens.”

Meanwhile, West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski was an avowed supporter of their use. Dombkowski said the number of excessive-orce complaints against his department plummeted from 29 to seven since officers started using the cameras over a year ago.

“Everybody behaves different when they know they are being recorded,” Dombkowski said.

The use of body cameras has been debated across the country following several high-profile cases in which people have died at the hands of police, leading long-simmering tensions with law enforcement to boil over, especially in some urban communities. * * *

Key issues lawmakers are reviewing include when police should have their cameras recording, what footage needs to be retained for the long term and how quickly agencies should be required to release footage to the public.

Not all rural agencies in the state are against using the cameras. Last year, the Gibson County Sheriff’s Office equipped deputies with body cameras.

But Troyer’s stance against body cameras bolstered skepticism raised before the Interim Study Committee on Government by the Indiana Sheriff’s Association, which argues that the cameras would be costly, time-consuming to use and burdensome for smaller departments. Cameras could also record footage that violates people’s constitutional privacy rights, the agency said.

But lawmakers on the committee from urban areas said police body cameras could actually increase trust.

“Why are we even here talking about this?” said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis. “We’ve seen how they’ve exonerated police officers and how they’ve really shed light on the truth.”

Jill Disis reported for the Indianapolis Star:
The use of body-worn cameras has been widely embraced by many midsize and major metropolitan police departments, who laud the technology as a way to protect officers from false accusations and record evidence that could become instrumental in court proceedings.

But not everyone is a fan.

During a legislative committee hearing Tuesday, Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer, secretary of the Indiana Sheriffs' Association, said the use of body cameras could prove disastrous to his department's ability to conduct investigations.

"You're talking about, unlike a dash camera, a device that can be carried into constitutionally protected environments," he said.

Troyer argued that body cameras could end up shattering public trust instead of building it.

"We've gone to great lengths to gain trust in our communities," he said. "I think the fear in my agency and with my deputies is that the presence of those cameras ... in those areas creates fear in our people, in our citizens."

Troyer, whose department operates in a county of about 34,000 people, said he has sent a written directive to his agency prohibiting the use of body cameras. * * *

Other departments in the state have expressed support for the use of body cameras, including Indianapolis. Indianapolis public safety officials have asked the City-County Council for $250,000 to help pay for body cameras in 2016. Discussion on that topic is expected to continue Wednesday night.

Speaking to The Indianapolis Star last week, Deputy Director of Public Safety Bryan Roach said he thinks cameras can be an "effective tool." Earlier this month, Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder said several officers "reported positive experiences with the equipment" during a pilot program earlier this year.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 30, 2015 10:33 AM
Posted to Indiana Government