SPRINGFIELD – Police Chief Rick Lewis asked city councilors for feedback regarding in-car video cameras to complement officers’ body cameras.
“We recognized the value of what you see with it that you won’t with a body-worn camera,” Lewis said, adding that the main goal is accountability and transparency.
The conversation was a continuation of June’s council decision to move forward with money for body cameras. During the department’s research, Lewis said that in-car video cameras benefits were repeatedly demonstrated and he felt it was an “important” addition.
In-car video systems include three onboard cameras that record the vehicle’s front windshield, cab backseat and rear view, as well as video storage and other technological efficiencies for reviewing, labeling and processing.
Current state, Lewis said, limited camera angles to the officer’s field of view. More cameras would allow for more public transparency, he said. It is a standard industry tool, and the department only has one in its fleet.
Setting up 24 vehicles with cameras would cost $170,012. The department has submitted a request to utilize drug forfeiture money to support the implementation costs, which will be reviewed at the Oct. 19 meeting.
The department has already identified Getac as the preferred vendor for the camera systems.
Councilor Sean Van Gordon said he was supportive, and asked whether the department will change its approach with the new equipment. Lewis said officers will get more efficient at uploading and processing video, and the in-car system makes it even easier for downloading.
Councilor Leonard Stoehr asked about the capabilities of officers turning cameras off, and Lewis said there are times when dealing with a medical situation or sex abuse situation where the cameras must be turned off and the officer needs access to do that, and there are policies regarding when a camera should be shut off or not.
Council President Joe Pishioneri said he supports the additional in-car systems because it can work as a catch-all if an officer forgets to turn on his body camera.
He also added that the five-year cost is a “small investment for the amount of officer, city and public protection.”
Councilor Steve Moe agreed, saying that while he “hates it’s come to this in the world today, it’s for everyone’s protections.”