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Cumberland Police Department works to get body cameras

CUMBERLAND, Ind. (WISH) — The Cumberland Police Department hopes all of its full-time officers will soon be wearing body cameras. The department is applying for a federal grant to pay for 15 body cameras.

Just last week, the department received two body cameras as donations from the American Legion and a local restaurant. Lieutenant Christopher Etherton said he’s grateful for the community support.

“They want us to have another view of the actual scene to help defend ourselves from all these false accusations. We’re very thankful for it,” said Etherton.

Etherton is leading the effort to equip Cumberland police officers with body cameras. He said the cameras would protect officers if their actions are ever questioned.

“We definitely want every avenue to show we’re doing the job professionally, to show we aren’t doing those things that people think we’re doing. It just shows that added level of security for us,” said Etherton.

Etherton said the department isn’t using its two body cameras yet, but almost every squad car already has a dash cam. The body cameras will eventually integrate with the dash cams. The body cameras cost about $900 each, plus the cost of storing the video.

Etherton said he hopes the body cameras would also be helpful when taking cases to trial, because prosecutors could use the video as evidence.

“It means transparency for the department. It shows what we are doing out in the field. It shows the real time events as it’s happening. It helps with prosecution, it helps with other avenues such as…housing and the way people are living– in order to get them help,” said Etherton.

The department was already working to get body cameras before last week’s deadly police shooting involving IMPD. Since that shooting, community leaders have called for IMPD to wear body cameras.

Etherton said that’s the type of incident that shows why he’d like his department to have body cameras. Still, his department would have to take time to develop policies about how and when to release body camera video, he said.

“It will definitely help protect us as officers, but…you’ve got to think about the case. We can’t just release video without having a case heard in trial. So there’s privacy issues there, there’s investigation issues. Those are all things we’ve got to work out,” said Etherton.

The Cumberland Police Department has to finish their application for the grant by the end of the month, and Etherton should find out in about six months if the department gets the money.