Lawrence Police going forward with plans for body cameras

Lawrence Police showed off the new body cameras their officers will wear.
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LAWRENCE, Ind. (WTHR) - The Lawrence Police Department is going full speed ahead with plans to mount body cameras on its uniformed officers.

It will be just a matter of weeks before each officer is wearing cameras that go beyond just capturing video on the street.

The decision to acquire bodycams isn’t based on a single incident, but city officials say its aim is to provide transparency, accountability, trust and improve community relations.

It's been more than 10 years since the last contract on dashcams for Lawrence police cars ran out, but within the coming weeks officers will be wearing body cameras and their patrol cars will have front and rear facing cameras.

Lawrence Police Chief David Hofmann displayed the system that will be hitting the streets. "The way it works, it's going to be mounted inside a uniform vest just like this," he said while holding up the black fabric vest that simply slips over an officer’s shirt.

It's a system called Body Worn, developed by Atlanta-Based company called Utility, which has also equipped police departments in the Atlanta area, San Antonio and Colorado Springs.

The camera is a smartphone that slips into a metal mount, zips inside the vest, and the lens shoots from the officer’s chest.

The system is touted as "the world's smartest police body-worn camera technology."

The video wirelessly uploads to cloud-based storage.

The cameras automatically activate when they sense trouble. For example, if an officer goes to the ground, the accelerometer in the camera phone senses that, and sends out an emergency message. Even video from the phone can be monitored via live streaming.

It also synchronizes with others officers body cams, along with in-car camera video.

Lawrence Officer Dustin VanTreese will eventually be equipped with one.

"The body camera is going to help show that I'm doing my job the correct way and the correct manner. And it's going to knock down accusations against police officers and hopefully put an end to the majority of the lawsuits," he said.

"I can tell you the vast majority - ninety-nine percent - of our interactions in the United States and in Lawrence, it's no different here. Involve righteous officers doing great work under tremendously stressful situations," Chief Hofmann said. "This technology is simply going to document the great work that they're doing."

The cost is $60,000 a year, and that money has already been built into the public safety budget.

The first two officers will be fitted next week then the rest of the uniformed force will be phased in with 44 officers all wearing cameras by the end of next month.

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