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Campbell Police Getting Body Cameras

At the Campbell County Fiscal Court meeting on Thursday afternoon, County Police Chief Craig Sorrell offered details about the body-worn cameras his department will soon use.

The cameras, the licensing, and the software that stores the content from the cameras are provided by Taser Axon at a cost of roughly $33,000 over the next three years.

The cameras are cordless units with a single-button activation, a 130 degree angle, and a 30-second buffering which means the video from the camera backs up 30 seconds of content. The cameras pair with Android and iOS devices so that officers can sync their phones with them in order to review the footage.

There are other benefits, too.

“If it’s a routine traffic stop, or maybe it’s an investigation, or a narcotics investigation, we can have criteria in a dropdown menu and they can select what it is, and it will set automatically the retention rate of those videos,” Sorrell said. “Automatically, if it’s a routine traffic stop, it will delete 90 days later.”

Administrators can set the retention rate of all of the different criteria for the videos.

Another advantage that Sorrell likes is that officers cannot alter or tamper with the video in any way.

“All the officer does with this video, other than be able to view it on his phone, is that when he comes in for his shift, he puts it into a slot, and walks away. It will automatically upload the video, and recharge his system,” Sorrell explained.

He said that upload times are slow—sometimes taking as much as 40 minutes—so the automatic upload cuts down on tedious administrative work that would otherwise need to be done manually. 

The system is a cloud-based storage system and feeds the videos to a website called Having storage on the cloud prevents data loss in the event of some physical setback like a lightning strike which erased some of the stored videos of the department’s car camera footage recently. 

The system will also allow the department to upload its dash-cam videos from police cruisers.

Even though the officers cannot tamper with the videos, there are editing tools that come with the software. Sorrell explained that there are cases when footage must be redacted or edited to protect the privacy of filmed individuals. Examples include crimes committed against minors, footage of confidential informants, and events that are recorded in private residences. Any time a camera is not activated, the reason why must be fully documented.

Right now, the department has a number of open-record requests for dash-cam videos and will learn how to handle future requests from other agencies that have used the same body-cam system for some time. The Louisville Police Department, for instance, has recently rolled out the exact same system.

Officers are expected to manually activate the camera prior to engaging in all law-enforcement activities. If an officer fails to activate the camera, that officer must explain their actions.

Chief Sorrell pointed out that there will be some challenges to working with cameras because when the footage is viewed, it can at times be misleading. He explained that a person with a knife that is within 21 feet of an officer and charges would reach that officer prior to his or her ability to draw a weapon from his or her holster. The chief used this example to show that if an incident of this kind were viewed after the occasion, frame by frame, it would be easy to second guess the actions taken by the officer.

“A camera is capable of perceiving things that a human being is not,” he said.

The department will purchase 25 cameras for $399 apiece along with the licensing and storage capacity.

Officer training for the body-worn cameras will begin shortly after obtaining them.

“It’s a mature enough technology that we know we’re getting. There are procedures established that have been time tested, so we’re not pioneering anything yet,” said Judge/Executive Steve Pendery about the cameras.

Chief Sorrell expects the department to have body-worn cameras on by the end of the year.

Other Notes:

A service agreement with the City of Alexandria has been made for the County to provide non-routine animal control services within the city. Services by the County Animal Control will be provided in instances where the Alexandria Police do not have the expertise to adequately handle the situation.

“This is one more example where efficiencies for taxpayers across a couple of jurisdictions can be gained if you have an economy of scale to offer and it would actually be a nice thing in some ways if we had more work like this,” Judge Pendery said.

Another service agreement was reached with Airbus DS Communications, Inc. for an off-site hosted communicator for the Office of Emergency Management. The deal is a renewal for four years and will cost the Fiscal Court $16,500 annually. The services include calling residences in areas of missing persons.

Campbell County Emergency Management Director Bill Turner has won the 2015 Catalyst Award from the Kentucky Emergency Management Association.

“We appreciate his hard work and the recognition,” said County Commissioner Tom Lampe.

Commissioner Brian Painter has expressed his interest in working with the Northern Kentucky Water District to help run service to some residences in the Grant’s Lick area of Campbell County. The Water District has identified the precincts that are currently not served.  The area focused on by Painter consists of around 190 people in homes that are not served.

The funds necessary to provide these services is prohibitive compared to the population density in the area which is why there is currently no service there. Currently, the Water District has kept tariffs and surcharges to water bills in rural areas less than $30, but some kind of funding increase would be necessary in order to pay for the water utility to enter into the unserved areas of Grant’s Lick. Representatives from the Northern Kentucky Area Development District have pointed to some rural grant money that could be made available to help pay for any considered project. These grants are based on the median income level being below the poverty level, and the NKADD will put together an effort to attempt to properly gauge income levels there and try to match those levels with the rural grant.  Painter said that effort should be underway in the next few months.

Most of the people in the area do have an alternative water supply from cisterns.

“It’s not an easy problem to resolve, but it brings with it so much benefit to a rural area,” Painter said.

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor