The city and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are currently conducting a study of body-worn cameras, and they are asking for input from officers and the public.
The latest pilot program was announced Feb. 4 at Edna Martin Christian Center, 2605 E. 25th St., by Mayor Joe Hogsett; IMPD Chief Bryan Roach; Ashley Gurvitz, community development manager of Eastern Star Church; and Dr. Jeremy Carter, director of criminal justice and public safety at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
Over the coming months, IMPD will launch an extensive community engagement process designed to maximize resident involvement in the study, stated Aliya Wishner, chief communications officer for IMPD and the Office of Public Health and Safety.
The O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI is currently conducting a web-based community survey.
Additionally, a community listening session has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Eastern Star Baptist Church, Room J229 on the second floor of the Jewel Conference Center on the north entrance, 5750 E. 30th St.
[UPDATE: On Thursday, Wishner announced an additional listening session scheduled for 6 p.m. March 18 at Mt. Olive Ministries, 1449 S. High School Road.]
“I will present information from the community survey, share some concerns, some pieces of information we glean out of that survey, answer questions, and it will be another opportunity for community members to voice to IMPD and to others what they expect out of the program and what they might be concerned about in terms of policies and viewing the footage, and so forth,” said Carter.
IMPD will publish a Request for Information from qualified vendors, seeking to identify several products to deploy for a pilot of body-worn camera technology. The selected vendor products will be tested by the officers who serve in the busiest shift on the largest districts—all beat officers and supervisors on North, East, and Southeast district middle shift will use the equipment to record video and audio of resident interactions that occur over the trial period. Officers participating in the pilot will test all vendor products and provide feedback to be collected and analyzed by IUPUI to assess both vendor technology and officer perceptions of the pilot program. The technology will be piloted at no cost to the city, stated Wishner.
“Departments in other large cities have seen the benefits body cameras provide, for both IMPD officers and the community. They have been found in other jurisdictions to reduce complaints, to improve officer training, and frankly make policing safer for everyone. That's what I call a win-win-win,” said Hogsett. “In light of the lower cost, in light of the greater community involvement and the positive examples we see in comparable cities across the nation that are already running such programs, I am eager for our city, the city we call home, Indianapolis, to finally join this next evolution in policing.”
In December, veteran IMPD Captain Steve Turner was selected to oversee the pilot period as the department’s first body camera program manager.
“Large police departments across the country have reported benefits from body-worn camera programs that include increased transparency with the community, a reduction in complaints against police, and improved officer training,” stated Wishner. “The captured audio and video can assist in the prosecution of offenders as well as the investigation of citizen complaints.”
This will be a second, larger pilot of body-worn camera technology within the IMPD.
Phase one of the initial 60-day test of the technology began Dec. 15, 2014, and was supervised by IMPD Lt. Mark Wood. During that test, only 12 cameras were used; six for traffic stops, and six for new officers and their field training officers. Phase two of that testing began soon after and was opened up to a total of three vendors and additional officers. Since then, several community organizations have called for all IMPD officers to be outfitted with body cameras.
“We know our community can be better. We have things that we have worked together collectively with police and law enforcement in the past, and, most importantly, our everyday loved ones to see that it can actually make a difference,” said Gurvitz. “We cannot turn a blind eye many are losing their lives because court is being held in the streets. We cannot afford another life to be lost.”
Wishner stated that prohibitive costs, outdated city technology infrastructure, a small sample size, as well as a lack of community buy-in were cited when the 2014 pilot did not result in the development of a permanent program.
“In the five years since, vendor offerings have increased, the city has invested millions of dollars in upgrading public safety technology infrastructure, and body-worn camera products have advanced, significantly driving down costs. IMPD anticipates full deployment of a body-worn camera program may cost between $2 million and 3 million per year, including the lease of the equipment, cloud storage of audio and video data, maintenance, as well as the staffing and software to export and redact video. Most major vendor agreements include startup costs and do not require an upfront investment from the city,” stated Wishner.
Roach said anywhere from 35 to 50 police officers are on middle shift in these districts, giving the city a much larger data set to work from than last time.
“Quite frankly, what this does is, it allows me as the police chief to go to the mayor and the City-County Council at some point and say, 'This is what a body-worn program will cost the city. And, these are the benefits to it,'” said Roach. “Then, there's going to be a discussion: Is this right for the city now?”