A look inside a police bodycam program
LAWRENCE, Ind. (WISH) — It’s been nearly a year since Lawrence Police Department started using body cameras, and the department said the cameras are helping solve cases while holding officers and the public accountable.
Chief David Hofmann said there’s been a reduction in cases going to trial from Lawrence police because of the evidence these body cameras give the prosecutor’s office.
The hope is cases gone cold can also get revived from this everlasting video.
It looks like a phone but it slips right into an officer’s uniform to document every call from a Lawrence police officer.
“This is a game changer in law enforcement,” Hofmann said.
WISH-TV followed Officer Matt Weber for several hours this week to see the impact in real time.
Dispatchers sent Weber to a scene where a couple of young men were allegedly smoking marijuana.
“I try to talk to the people so they know I’m a person, too,” the officer said after the incident.
One of the men told Weber he had a handgun. After getting the weapon, Weber made sure to record the serial number and the gun on his body camera.
“If there’s evidence that’s needed for a later investigation, it would pick up that firearm,” he said.
The men did not get arrested, but Weber said a homicide this summer at Maison Garden Apartments showed him the importance of body camera recordings.
“I was talking to the victim trying to get any information that I could,” he recalled.
The victim died shortly after. That body camera recording is the last interview he gave and a possible tool for the detectives still trying to find that man’s killer.
“That may be that one bit of information that we just don’t remember in the heat of the moment to put in our report that the camera always has,” he said.
But these cameras can’t capture everything.
For these body cameras to pick you up, you have to be looking straight on to the camera. If you do move side to side, then the officer has to move with you for these chest cameras to pick you up.
If you get too close, it’s hard to see what’s happening.
But the police chief said the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Hofmann said this year all complaints against Lawrence police officers have been proven wrong because of body camera footage.
One man accused an officer of stealing $500 from his son after an arrested.
“Well, we showed him the video and he apologized and he told us that he had some things he needed to clear up with his son,” Hofmann said.
The department spent $300,000 on the cameras over five years. It’s a tool the chief called the best investment by the department, one to keep you and its officers safe.
Hofmann said he knows there could be a time where the body cameras show a mistake by Lawrence Police Department.
He said the key is using them as a learning experience … and they will keep his officers accountable for their actions, the good and the bad.