The Kosciusko Police Department will receive new, advanced body cameras soon. Kosciusko Police Chief Chris Wray requested approval to purchase Axon Body 2 cameras, explaining the need to update the equipment before the Board of Aldermen at their most recent meeting.
Wray said the current body cameras used by officers are starting to break and wear out. He said the department recently contacted the company that issued the current cameras nearly 15 years ago, and they no longer manufacture that model or part for them.
“They told us that we could send them the cameras and they might be able to piece together parts from all the cameras to get those cameras working. It was going to be quite expensive to do that — a couple hundred dollars per camera — and at the rate that they're breaking, I don't think it's a good idea to pour money into cameras that we can't fix or get more of,” Wray told the aldermen. “The software is just outdated on them. So, we’re at a point where it’s time to update our camera systems.”
Wray said the department contacted Axon, a company specializing in smart weapons, body cameras, and software for law enforcement.
“For law enforcement, from my understanding, this is like the iPhone of body cameras. This is what everybody has gone to. Now, they have the Axon Body 2 cameras and the Axon Body 3 cameras for purchase,” said Wray.
Wray then explained differences in the Axon Body 2 and Axon Body 3 cameras. Video from the Axon Body 3 cameras would be stored away from the department, uploaded to an online cloud server. For five years of service and 22 cameras, the Axon Body 3 cameras would cost $100,000 in total.
The Axon Body 2 cameras are almost the same as the 3s, according to Wray, but videos would be uploaded and stored on a server that currently exists at the police department. The cameras would also come with a one-year warranty. The total cost of this system of 22 cameras would be significantly lower, $16,082.
According to Wray, the cameras are durable, film in high definition, and record at all times. They also have a longer battery life than the cameras currently in use, he said.
“When you reach up and push the button, it will actually kick back 30 or 60 seconds. So, if I'm standing here talking to you, and something goes on, I can actually turn on the camera, and it'll go back 60 seconds, and you actually have video 60 seconds before you ever touch the camera,” said Wray. “They (Axon) have advised me that from the point of sale, they guarantee that the cameras will not be outdated or done away with at least in the next five years. It will include all the mantles and everything that we need to hook these cameras up at the department.”
Wray said after consulting with City Clerk Michelle Quesnot, he learned the city’s forfeiture fund — money seized from proceeds of criminal activity — is estimated to have around $32,000 in it at the time. He requested approval to spend $16,082 of those monies to purchase the new equipment.
“I'd like permission to go ahead and dip into that forfeiture fund and purchase the Axon 2 cameras now, so that we can go ahead and get cameras and get running,” he told the board. “We've got to do something now that our cameras are breaking on us. We've hired a couple officers. If we hire another officer, we won't have a body cam for him. We'll have to take a body camera from another officer and give it to that officer. So, I'd like approval to spend that $16,000 to get Axon 2s now.”
Mayor Tim Kyle said the cameras would be an asset that keeps everyone honest and gives the city protection if a lawsuit were to arise.
“These cameras are totally necessary. It will keep the city out of a lot of trouble,” said Kyle. “It keeps the officer honest, keeps the public honest, and it's just great for everybody. If you ever get into any kind of lawsuit or anything, that’s the first thing they're going to ask for — they want to see video.”
Ward One Alderman James Culpepper made the motion to purchase the Axon Body 2 cameras using monies from the forfeiture fund. The motion was seconded by Alderman-at-Large Earl Price and passed with a unanimous vote of the board.