By Kendall Downing
DALEVILLE, Ind. – The volatile situation in Ferguson, Missouri has escalated amid claims about what really happened when Michael Brown was killed. There is no dash cam video or any other recording of the moment Brown was shot repeatedly.
The Ferguson police chief said they purchased two dash cams and two body cameras this spring, but the department didn’t have the money to install them.
Body cameras are being tested by police all over the country, including Indiana. One small department is outfitting all its officers with the devices.
The town of Daleville, in Delaware County, has four full-time officers and 30 reserves. All of them wear body cameras while on duty.
“Backup’s at least 10 minutes away out here if something was to happen,” said Gary Blankenship, a Daleville officer.
For Blankenship that means he could be alone on calls for longer than he’d like. But Blankenship has an added piece of protection hanging from his shirt each day: a camera.
“I just, I believe that with the camera, it shows what happens. It shows what the officer’s response is and what the community’s response is,” said James King, Daleville Police Chief.
King said the town bought the cameras with grant money and started using them in April. They cost roughly $500 each. The department has seven in use but plans to get an additional seven with other grant money.
Full time and reserve officers must wear the cameras on patrol. Officers must click the cameras on before each stop. Chief King can later download and watch the video.
It’s technology taking hold nationwide. Los Angeles police are testing the devices; San Diego police use them, too.
Closer to home, Greenwood police have four body camera units and hope to get the money for more. Indy’s Department of Homeland Security tested wearable cameras out at special events. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department tells FOX59 they are not using any cameras now, though they are formulating a policy and procedure.
“They see what you see. It’s looking out exactly at what you’re looking at, ” said Blankenship, “I believe in the next four years you’re going to see everybody having them.”
Blankenship said even in a small community the camera gives him peace of mind, a device with power to prove where the truth lies.
“The camera will show what happened. You know there’s only two people who know what happened in Ferguson. If they had the camera, they could show the tape,” he said.
Critics of the cameras have raised privacy concerns for the officers, those being stopped or arrested, and the general public who might be caught on the cameras.
Last fall, the ACLU put out a report issuing its support for police body cameras, with what it called the right policies in place.
Chief King said Muncie Police have inquired with him about how the cameras work.