Carson City Sheriff’s Department to get body cameras in June
Deputies in the Carson City Sheriff’s Department will get a technological upgrade with the implementation of new body cameras in June.
Last week, the Carson City Board of Supervisors approved a five-year contract with Axon Enterprise Inc., totaling $515,703.60 for the cameras and equipment installation.
Per the new statute established by the legislature, all law enforcement agencies in Nevada will be required to outfit their officers with body cameras. Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said they’re aiming to have the cameras operational before the July 1 mandatory date.
“First we want to be in compliance with the new state statutes, body cameras has been a public focus for the last four years and justifications for that focus are varied from person to person,” Furlong said. “The body cameras have been shown nationally to be a very productive ally to law enforcement officers and a resolution to many issues from personnel issues to critical incidents.”
Aside from the camera costs, the department has to pay to update the infrastructure of the Sheriff’s Office related to the development of the program including rewiring the building for docking stations, creating the path to upload the video to servers and other needs such as storage.
Every deputy on patrol, investigations and the Special Enforcement Team will be equipped with the cameras, as they’re the officers who most come in contact with the public.
“Beyond that we have to have these as required by law, there are lots of benefits to having these in the field,” said Capt. Jeff Melvin. “It is good to have that evidence of interactions rather than just testifying what happened, we have that video evidence which is of great value to us.
“I think it will help us resolve complaints if someone claims they are mistreated, it is easier to look at the video of that interaction and if people are filing false claims or embellishing a claim, they may be less likely to do so with video of the actions. We always want to be more transparent and these will help.”
Melvin and others at the Sheriff’s Office have been looking into using body cameras on patrol for about three years, long before the mandate was put into place by the legislature. Melvin has been working on going to symposiums, trainings and talking with other law enforcement agencies to look at their policies and products used for the cameras.
Having the body cameras aren’t new for the department, the detectives have been using body cameras for several years, but now they’ll transfer over to the new system so all of them will be on the same systems.
All the public will see is a small black box — similar look to a cell phone — on the deputy’s chest and when it is recording there will be an indicator on the device. Each camera is manually turned on and off by the officer, with special policies in place to indicate when.
“We have privacy issues to deal with, there is a limitation of storage of data and other things (that determined the new policy),” Melvin said. “Policy tells us that we have to turn it on with any interaction with the public in an enforcement capacity.”
He said those situations include calls for service they are dispatched to, traffic stops, etc.
The deputies tested a variety of devices about a year ago to see what challenges would arise. Furlong said one issue they discovered was the public’s reaction to the cameras.
“We found that some folks who witnessed a crime became apprehensive to officers when the camera was turned on,” Furlong said. “It is a challenge we will have to overcome as it will be a normal piece of day to day equipment.”
On the contrary, the deputies have responded well to the camera test period.
“You’ll get both sides, some guys will welcome the cameras, others won’t be as enthusiastic because it is new and you have to get used to it,” Melvin said. “But guys will love it because it will help prove or disprove complaints. But it will be difficult because when it is recording and you are trying to do your job the camera will make you nervous no matter what, but overall the feedback was positive.
“They are out there and they are doing their job and doing it right so the camera is really not that big of a deal for us.”
Melvin said many of them liked the new systems, stating they were durable and simple with good quality video and audio.
“It is a really good thing because of a number of reasons,” said Deputy Nick Pinochi. “One it can aid in prosecution, two it works to ensure we are acting within legal and professional boundaries and three it provides accountability for both the suspect and officer in an incident.”
While the legislative bill provides for it to be extended to vehicle cameras as well, the department opted out of them for the time being.
“We briefed the Board of Supervisors and we decided we don’t have the confidence in our revenue sources adequate to provide for the car camera system right now, but it remains and option down the road,” Furlong said. “The car cameras have some advantages over the body cameras and vice versa.”
Furlong said the department had vehicle cameras long ago, but the maintenance costs were too high to financially keep up.
For now, the department will focus on getting all the deputies trained on the new equipment, configuration of the structural and cultural change in the department and the adjustment period for the deputies and the public.