IMPD body camera trial complete but the study continues

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – IMPD is one step closer to potentially adopting a new body camera program. A 45-day trial ended a little more than a week ago. Police say now it’s time to gather facts and opinions from the study.

“We think the importance of this issue can only be highlighted by the incident a couple of weeks ago now over at Shortridge,” said Mark Russell, the Director of Advocacy and Family Services at the Indianapolis Urban League.

Russell said if IMPD wore body cameras, the case of an officer accused of punching a student may have had a different outcome.

“I think it’s important especially in light of this incident at Shortridge, that the community be able to trust their police officers,” said Russell.

IMPD Major Kendale Adams said, “About 40 percent said that they really enjoyed the cameras, really appreciated having that technology on board.”

Eventually, a committee will be formed to help decide how to move forward.

“What we want to do is lay out all of the vendors, layout all the cost, so that this committee, the chief, the mayor has a better idea of what the total cost of the program would be,” said Adams.

Police want to hear from the public too. The Indy Urban League said there’s one main concern from the community.

“The ability of the public to see and access the videos,” said Russell.

If a program is adopted, that’s something the Indy Urban League will continue pushing.

“I think it’s not only a matter of good public policy," said Russell. "But it also is a matter of ensuring that we have faith in our police department.”

There is no set date on when the final report will be complete.

“I wish it was quicker, but it takes time to pull all of that together,” said Adams.

The Indy Urban League understands, but said the process should not be delayed.

“We’re probably one incident away from something happening in the community,” said Russell.

He believes video protects both the officer and the public.

“As Ronald Reagan once said, 'trust but verify',” said Russell.

This isn’t the first IMPD body camera pilot program. There was a smaller one in 2014. However, IMPD did not adopt it due to cost.

Now that prices have decreased, body cameras are back up for consideration.

Jeremy Carter, the Director of Criminal Justice and Public Safety at O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI said they surveyed 28-hundred people in the community.

Those surveys indicated the majority of people want body cameras.

However, he did list some of the concerns voiced in those surveys. Those concerns include cost, privacy, access and the policy.

Michael Leffler with the Marion County Prosecutor's Office sent out a statement saying,

"Our experience with body camera footage has shown that it can be helpful, particularly in reviewing evidence for the purposes of determining criminal charges. It is important to note that the usefulness of body camera footage can vary significantly, often limited by something as simple as which direction the officer, and thus the camera, is facing. In addition, this footage is only one part of the full investigation considered in any charging decision, which typically also includes witness statements and physical evidence."

We also reached out to the ACLU of Indiana. It sent out a statement saying,

"For the ACLU, the challenge of on-officer cameras is the tension between their potential to invade privacy and their strong benefit in promoting police accountability. Overall, we think they can be a win-win—but only if they are deployed within a framework of strong policies to ensure they protect the public without becoming yet another system for routine surveillance of the public, and to ensure they maintain public confidence in the integrity of those privacy protections. Without such a framework, their accountability benefits would not exceed their privacy risks."

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