Lawrence police say body cameras only tell part of the story

LAWRENCE, Ind. (WISH) — Several central Indiana police departments have or are in the process of investing in body camera technology as another tool for officers.

While those cameras can be helpful for investigators, they have their flaws.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is in the process of getting officers equipped right now; many officers are already wearing them. Indiana State Police have also recently begun testing them.

Lawrence police were some of the first in the state to have the technology in 2016. Now 44 officers wear them every day.

“It was very important to us to provide our officers with an officer safety tool and also a terrific evidence-gathering tool,” said Deputy Chief Gary Woodruff.

Woodruff said he is glad to see more departments are beginning to feel the same way, but as agencies jump on the body camera train, he wants to remind the public often times the cameras only tell part of the story.

“If a body-worn camera is pointing forward and the officer’s head is looking off to the side, the officer is going to see things or perceive things that the body-worn camera facing forward may not observe or see,” said Woodruff.

He said most times, as long as the technology is working properly, you will still hear what’s going on even if you don’t see it.

News 8 asked Woodruff about a recent deadly shooting in Carmel when an officer’s body camera fell off during a chase. Carmel uses a different brand of camera than Lawrence, but Woodruff said that didn’t matter and the same situation could happen to any officer in any department.

“The point here is not to try and be critical of any other department or any other body camera solution but anytime you have an externally mounted camera, there are attributes to those but one limitation is they can be prone to dislodge and if they are going to dislodge it’s at a critical moment,” said Woodruff.

He added Lawrence is very happy with its body camera program and hopes to continue for many years. He believes IMPD will feel the same and with more transparency on the camera limitations, the public will too.