IMPD considers body cameras in the wake of Ferguson shooting

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INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 25, 2014) – The violence in Ferguson, Mo., after the Michael Brown grand jury decision and an investigation into a police acting shooting in Indianapolis has Public Safety Director Troy Riggs thinking about the value of body cameras on the city’s 1,500+ police officers.

“We have put an efficiency team together to look at the possible use of body cameras. We’re going to test a few of those cameras and see if they work for us here in Indianapolis,” said Riggs who is confident the cost would be less than $1,000 per officer.  “I think anytime you have a body camera it makes it a lot easier especially if you can capture the sound as well.”

Conflicting eyewitness accounts coupled with physical evidence and trying to decipher what was in Officer Darren Wilson’s mind when he faced off against the unarmed black teenager led grand jurors in St. Louis County to decide there wasn’t enough evidence to indict the Ferguson patrolman.

Rioting even worse than the unrest that rocked the St. Louis suburb in the days after the killing broke out following Prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s announcement.

“It’s always disappointing when you see an American city have that kind of violence,” said Riggs, noting that many the businesses looted and burned by the protesters are vital to the economic livelihood of Ferguson.

Riggs indicated that the involvement of groups like the Ten Point Coalition in walking Indianapolis neighborhoods and helping monitor large events and crowds make violent street protests like those in Ferguson unlikely in Indianapolis.

Rev. Charles Harrison visited Missouri with other members of the coalition to brief faith-based leaders on their tactics and practices to deal with street anger.

“The civil unrest was there, but what has been accomplished because of the civil unrest?” Harrison asked after a night of rioting following word of the grand jury’s decision. “We’re trying to get to solutions, healthy solutions, that address the concerns.

“To me that took away from it because people then look at this from a different light because of all the violence, so the violence becomes the issue and not what happened between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson.”

Harrison said the more moderate reaction of Indianapolis neighborhoods and city leadership to police/community issues has helped maintain a peaceful coexistence that has led to mutual understanding.

“Without the demonstrations, without the civil disobedience, without looting, without burning down buildings and without all of the gunplay, we have done that here in Indianapolis without all of that and we have made significant progress.”

Metro police officers shot and wounded an unarmed man, Ryan Hubbard, 37, on the city’s southeast side Monday.

Hubbard, a convicted felon, was being sought on a drug dealing warrant.

Officers said Hubbard refused their commands and made threatening moves when they shot him.

“As an officer you have to make a decision within a split second whether you’re going to fire your weapon or not,” said Riggs who served 22 years on the Louisville, Ky., Police Department. “In the situation I was in, I had the legal right to fire weapon and I chose not to.

“It’ a decision officers make each and every day in some fashion of using force and most of the time they make the right decision.

“If they fear for their life or they fear for someone else’s life, you can use deadly force at that time and it’s a decision that officers have to make and it’s a tough decision.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that officers and citizens can practice lethal self-defense if they determine their lives are threatened.

It was based on that precedent, and eyewitness accounts and physical evidence, that St. Louis County grand jurors relied on to determine Officer Wilson could not be charged with killing Brown and led to rioting by unhappy protesters.