Twin Falls Police Department Closer to Using Body-worn Cameras
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – The Twin Falls Police Department is closer to giving body-worn cameras to all of its uniformed officers. The department on Monday updated the City Council on its efforts to implement the program.
“This is a big deal for us,” Capt. Anthony Barnhart told the mayor and council members before turning the presentation over to Sgt. Brent Wright. The department wants to be up-to-date and professional in every way it can be. Wright said body-worn cameras help it do that.
“We also want to be transparent,” he said.
When the police department first considered recording officers’ interaction with the public, it tried using 8mm cameras.
That was 1996.
It moved to stand-alone VHS systems in 1998 and DVD systems in the early part of the new century. It again looked at using technology in 2007 and 2011, but each had starts and stops along the way.
And then 2014 happened.
Riots in Ferguson, Mo., followed by civil unrest in Baltimore, Md., the following year laid further claim to police departments having video eyes on their interactions with the public and to capture evidence. Technology had improved, and the fiscal means to make the plan a reality was in line.
It was time.
In 2015, the police department was awarded a $90,000 matching grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help implement the program. The city pitched in another $49,000, for a total of $229,000 to fund the program.
The department currently is meeting with stakeholders and tweaking its draft plan before it gets final approval from the feds. Around 60 cameras will be purchased for use among the department's 73 sworn officers. Wright said he hopes to implement the camera program sometime in August.
At that time, each uniformed officer will be assigned a camera when on duty, and dock it at the end of their shift. All criminal recordings will be reviewed by the city prosecutor. Recordings also will be reviewed by the sergeant from time to time as a quality control measure, and if ever there is a citizen complaint against an officer.
Wright said he views video reporting as beneficial to police officers and citizens alike. If a citizen makes a complaint against an officer, for instance, the recording will tell if it’s a valid complaint. It also will tell if additional officer training is needed.
In 2012, researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology conducted a 12-month study of body-worn cameras used by police in Rialto, Calif., and found an 87 percent reduction in citizen complaints against police officers because of the cameras.
“It increases the accountability on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “It protects everybody and allows us to be more transparent.”
Recordings will be archived for review and investigation. Some will remain archived longer than others, depending on the reporting incident: Rape and homicide investigations will be archived for 100 years; felonies for five years; misdemeanors for two years; and accidental reporting files, such as recordings of non-crime incidences, for 14 days.
Media would be denied access to the video reports during an investigation, Wright told council members, responding to a question from Councilman Chris Talkington.
Mayor Shawn Barigar said he appreciates what the cameras will do for the department as it tries to keep up with the times.
“This is not replacing good, solid police work,” Barigar said. “This is just another tool.”