Sheriff's Office to issue body cameras for deputies (January 5, 2015)
In February, Chief Deputy Scott Freeman and I were invited to the Rockdale County chapter of the NAACP to give a presentation. The presentation was to address questions and concerns from participants in regards to the new body cameras. The following are some of the great questions posed at the presentation and the RCSO would like share the answers with everyone.
1. Are the body cameras be purchased - can they be turned off? Yes. The body cameras will allow the deputy to turn off the camera at his/her discretion. This will be governed by RCSO policy, and will follow recommendations on best practice.
2. Is there an option to not use the body camera? At present, the RCSO will make it mandatory for deputies to use the body camera on all class for service and any contact with a citizen.
3. Could there be a light on them so citizens will know it is on? Anything with a light on it could present a safety issue for the deputy, especially at night. There is very much a need to ensure deputies do not have anything (i.e., a flashing light) that makes them a target at night or at any other time. Ultimately, the safety of deputies will never be compromised.
4. Can someone from the office see what is going on “live” and in real-time? No. At present, live feed is not an option for the body cameras or the in-cameras.
5. When you go inside a home will the body camera fall under the Fourth Amendment? While the RCSO will work to ensure that we protect citizens under the Fourth Amendment, the main issue is the current state law in Georgia O.C.G.A. 16-11-62 currently reads, “It shall be unlawful for … Any person, through the use of any device, without the consent of all persons observed, to observe, photograph, or record the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of public view.” Current law does not provide an exception for law enforcement officers in their official duties. Until such time that Georgia law can be changed, deputies will initially ask for permission to record inside private residences in order to comply with the law.
6. When a deputy’s tour of duty ends, where will the items be stored? At the end of a deputy’s tour, the deputy will take the body camera and “dock” it into the network of the RCSO. The body camera, which can hold four hours of video, will take about 10 minutes to upload all the video. The video will be stored on the current system that the RCSO utilizes for in-car video. The body camera video and the in-car video will be stored on the same system.
7. Once stored, who has access to video data? The RCSO currently utilizes a video evidence management system for all in-car video, and that same system will be used to store body camera video. Only authorized personnel are allowed to access and view the video. More stringent access and viewing restrictions apply to which personnel can download the video.
8. If deputies go bad and use the systems wrong or try to get around it, what standards will be used as discipline? The RCSO currently has a policy on in-car video and is developing a policy for the body cameras utilizing a model policy from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Training will be provided to the deputies on the use of the system and the requirements of policy. As with all policy violations, an attempt to understand the violation will be made so we can re-train and correct the behavior to ensure standards are met. As with all policies, discipline, up to and including termination could result depending on the violation of the policy and the intent of the deputy (i.e., conceal something illegal or wrong).
9. How long do we keep video footage? The RCSO complies with the state law on records retention, which includes in-car and body camera footage. The Records Retention Law provides, “Video Tapes, Mobile Video tapes taken from patrol car video cameras of police actions - Retain tapes containing arrests for: five years; retain all other tapes until no longer useful.”
10. Do all of our cars currently have in car cameras? No, not all cars have in-car cameras. As of today, only half of marked patrol units have an in-car camera system. In January 2015, the RCSO ordered enough in-car cameras to outfit the remainder of the RCSO marked unit fleet. This order also included the body cameras. At present, estimations for delivery and installation of all of the in-car camera systems and body cameras should be fully deployed by June 2015.
11. What is the clarity of the camera? The body cameras being deployed by the RCSO are manufactured by L3 Mobile Vision and will be the latest, most advanced body camera on the market today. The video resolution will be 1280 x 720 HD (High Definition).
12. What funds were used to pay for the cameras and how will they be maintained? These in-car camera systems and body cameras were paid for with seized drug funds – not taxpayer dollars. As with all technology, the system will require upkeep to remain operational and up-to-date. Failure to expend monies for upkeep could ultimately result in system failures when we need it most. Keeping this system up and running is not expected to increase the burden on the taxpayer. Additional expansions and major repairs will continue to be paid for with seized drug funds. Routine maintenance and upkeep will be taken out of the operating budget as has been with the in-car camera system.
Thank you to the Rockdale County chapter of the NAACP for allowing the RCSO the opportunity to address the concerns of the participants.