In the wake of a fatal police shooting, the city is considering purchasing more body cameras for officers later this year or in 2020, but it has not yet revealed the exact details of its plans.
(TNS) — South Bend, Ind., is considering purchasing more body cameras for police officers later this year or in 2020 but is not revealing many details, including whether the decision was prompted by a recent fatal police shooting.
A "special purchase" line item was added to the South Bend Board of Public Works agenda for a Wednesday meeting — it noted 75 additional body cameras at a cost of $337,500.
But the item was removed before the meeting and no action was taken. Mark Bode, a spokesman for Mayor Pete Buttigieg's office, said the item was added to the agenda "prematurely."
"The administration is evaluating options to upgrade and expand body camera technologies beyond the Phase 1 deployment currently in place, which was implemented beginning in 2018 for patrol officers," Bode wrote in an email. "Any expansion or upgrade would likely be implemented as part of the 2020 city budget process or a supplemental appropriation later this year."
At the Wednesday meeting, Bode said he didn't know if the process to buy more cameras was started before or after a South Bend police officer fatally shot Eric Logan the morning of June 16.
The officer, Sgt. Ryan O'Neill, was responding to reports of someone breaking into vehicles when he spotted Logan partially inside a parked car. Officials have said O’Neill’s body camera was not running when he confronted Logan.
It’s unclear whether O’Neill followed department policy by not starting his camera. Following the shooting, Buttigieg’s office announced the police chief had issued a new general order that “officers should activate their body cameras during all work-related interactions with civilians.”
“This step is intended to confirm community expectations that police encounters with civilians will be recorded,” Buttigieg said in a statement.
Previously, the department’s policy called for officers to “activate the recorder during all enforcement stops and field interview situations, and any other time the (officer) reasonably believes that a recording of an on-duty contact may be useful.”
About a year ago, the city equipped all patrol officers with body cameras. The city purchased 170 cameras for $1.5 million. The department has more than 240 officers overall.
Bode wouldn't say if the 75 cameras would be replacing current equipment or if they would be given to officers not currently required to wear a body camera.
The technology of the cameras South Bend is currently using has been called into question. Some cameras, for example, can start recording automatically when an officer draws his weapon or when shots are fired, but South Bend's cameras are not equipped with gunshot detection.
BodyWorn, the brand that supplied the South Bend Police Department’s cameras, advertises both gunshot detection and a holster that activates the body camera when an officer draws a gun. When the cameras detect gunshots, they also retroactively record the prior two minutes.
In a news release, the company said the cameras did not have the gunshot activation technology when South Bend purchased them, but that feature is now available.
South Bend Police spokesman Ken Garcia on Wednesday deferred to Bode for comment.
"We are constantly reevaluating our public safety equipment needs," Bode wrote in an email. "One year out from implementing body cameras for patrol officers, we continue to look at how best to meet the needs of the department."
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