Panel hears about body cameras for Kentucky police officers

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The use of body cameras by Kentucky police officers was the topic of discussion a legislative committee in Frankfort on Thursday.


University of Kentucky Police Chief Joe Monroe, representing the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police, told the Interim Joint Judiciary Committee, cost is a big factor in departments being able to use the systems. 


“A body camera program deals with the cost of the cameras themselves, the mounts, software and licensing fees, docking stations, information technology structure, as well as storage, which is probably the biggest cost.”


Spare cameras records and administrative costs are other cost factors, he testified.


“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand to five thousand dollars per officer,” Monroe said, “depending on the camera selection, the storage requirements and your software licensing provided by different vendors.”


Setting up a policy for when the camera is to be turned on is another consideration, he told lawmakers.  “Are you going to have recordings of all calls for service, when citizens contact you, for all traffic stops, all your investigative stops, all of your transports of prisoners?”


Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain, representing the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association, noted the use of body cams is back under scrutiny in the context of police accountability. 


“To help build trust with the community, requiring officers to wear these body cameras has been suggested as a reasonable step,” he told the panel.  “The idea is that doing so would deter police misconduct by providing an objective record of what actually happened during a particular incident.”


Cain said cameras can serve in a supervisory function, “By assuring that officers are acting in accordance with departmental policies.  Cameras are also valued as a measure of protection, against false claims of misconduct.”


Cain echoed Monroe’s testimony about the expense, adding it can cost a department $500,000 over a five-year period, with the largest part of the cost maintaining and storing of video records.  An expense that smaller departments, including his own, cannot afford.


Both men stated that if the General Assembly decides to enact legislation that would require law enforcement agencies to use body cams, that they also provide the funding for the systems, otherwise it becomes an unfunded mandate.

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