The camera mounted on the sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle caught everything, from when the man ran from deputies to when he pulled out a gun.
Now, the video caught on that camera is a key piece of evidence in the investigation to determine whether the shooting of a Greenwood man by two sheriff’s deputies was justified. Prosecutor Brad Cooper already decided based on that video that the two deputies involved should be able to return to work, since the video showed clearly that the man they were chasing pulled a gun on them first.
The videos, which record every time a deputy or officer turns them or their vehicle’s flashing lights on, also catch how an officer and driver act during a traffic stop and can provide the evidence needed to prosecute a drunken driver.
But not every police car in the county has one. Of the three largest local police departments, Franklin police have around 20, sheriff’s deputies have 28, and Greenwood police have none. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has 10 in-car cameras.
The low numbers aren’t what people expect, Greenwood assistant chief Matthew Fillenwarth said.
“I think the citizens expect you to have that. Jurors always want video because that’s what they see on TV. They might as well be watching ‘Star Trek’ because of how (fake) some of these shows are,” he said. “If you had video of every crime, none of them would ever go to trial.”
The sheriff’s office would buy cameras for all of its cars if it could afford them because the video is useful, Sheriff Doug Cox said. But the video systems are expensive, costing $3,000 or more, he said. The sheriff’s office has bought the cameras over time and likely bought them with money earned by selling items in the jail commissary, he said.
Greenwood hasn’t had any in-car cameras for about five years. Officers who don’t have the cameras don’t have as much evidence to protect them if people who are arrested sue, claiming officers assaulted them, or complain that an officer was rude during a traffic stop, Fillenwarth said.
But because of the high price tag, Greenwood is considering another option, Fillenwarth said.
The body cameras the police department started using in March are digital and loop constantly, so officers have 30 seconds of video footage prior to them hitting the record button, Fillenwarth said.
The goal for the Greenwood Police Department is to have all uniformed officers wearing body cameras next year, he said. That will cost about $1,000 per officer, or $40,000, paid for out of the police department’s equipment fund. They also cost $120 to $140 per year for online storage of the videos.
Officers can’t edit or immediately delete videos, and the company that makes the cameras stores the footage, Fillenwarth said.
Greenwood bought its last cars with in-car cameras around 2007. Under a previous chief, the police department stopped replacing the cameras as they wore out, Chief John Laut said.
The new cameras the department wants can be worn by an officer or can be suction-cupped to a car window, then removed and worn by an officer. They’re less expensive, costing between $100 and $1,000 for the types local departments have considered, and they’re more versatile.
“I really believe this is the way of the future,” Fillenwarth said. “That camera goes with them in and out of a car, into a person’s house, wherever they go.”
The cameras capture more of what officers and the people around them do, providing a record of what happened if an officer is accused of misconduct or a resident is fighting an operating while intoxicated charge in court, he said.
That should save officers from spending hours in court because when police have video of a crime being committed or of officers dealing with a person claiming they were rude, the cases rarely go to trial, he said.
In-car cameras are useful, but the cameras officers can wear are a better product because they’re not limited to capturing video footage in front of the police car, Franklin Lt. Kerry Atwood said.
The cameras see what the officers see, whether they’re behind the wheel of their car, looking into another driver’s car or walking into a home to break up a family fight, he said.
Less than half of Franklin officers currently have in-car cameras.
Franklin has stopped replacing old in-car camera systems and may consider getting video cameras that officers can wear on their uniforms instead, Atwood said.
Two of Prince’s Lakes four police cars have cameras in them. Officers also can take and wear the two small cameras on their uniforms.
The type of cameras Prince’s Lakes officers have used for the past three years have been helpful in answering questions about arguments between officers and residents, as well as about drunken driving arrests, Chief Greg Southers said.
“It can clear up a complaint,” he said.