Behind the lens of LMPD's new body cameras
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As part of a $2.8 million initiative by Louisville Metro Police, officers are beginning to wear body cameras.
Around 50 officers in the fifth division, which covers the Crescent Hill and Highlands neighborhoods, are now wearing the cameras. Police Chief Steve Conrad says as those officers wear the cameras for the next month or so will be a trial period.
“The fifth division,” said Conrad explaining why fifth division was chosen first, “of all of our 8 divisions has the fewest calls for service.”
In total, around 1,000 cameras will be ordered and placed into circulation for officers to use. Conrad says after the trial period ends, officers in LMPD's first division which includes downtown Louisville and the West End will begin wearing the cameras.
As part of the trial program, LMPD allowed WDRB News access to one of the body cameras to experiment.
The camera captures both audio and video and is designed to mimic the human eye. For that reason, officers are required to wear the camera on a glasses mount or on a shoulder mount. However, the camera cannot imitate what the human eye sees exactly. For instance, the camera has about a 70 degree field of view. A typical field of vision for the human eye is 120 degrees. Also, if the officer chooses to wear the camera on the collar mount, an officer turning their head will not be captured.
The push for body cameras for police first began after unrest followed an officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, MO. Later events have made the push for body cameras greater.
“We've seen the problems in Baltimore and some of the other cities,” Conrad said, “ Having that video, may put some of that to rest.”
We took the camera into different areas of Louisville to see if the public even noticed the camera and if they did, what their reaction was.
“I think people need to observe people doing their job and also taking care of their business,” said one man at Shawnee Park.
“I'm looking at it now and wondering if I would notice it on a cop,” said a woman at Cherokee park, “It almost looks like a GoPro.”
One concern that was expressed by several people when they saw the body camera was how the footage would be stored. LMPD says it will store the footage on a third-party site for access later. While the camera will always be on during an officer's shift, it will not always be recording. The officer will have to press the record button when responding to certain incidents.
“There's certainly policy to prohibit those types of incidents,” said LMPD spokesperson Sgt. Phil Russell, “But you would want an officer to turn it off if it was inappropriate to record.”
Standard operating procedures for the body cameras list the following instances when cameras are required to be turned on:
- DUI Cases
- Traffic Stops
- Pedestrian or bicyclist stops
- Foot pursuits
- Vehicle pursuits
- Vehicle searches
- Searches and seizures
- Frisks or pat downs
- Seizure of money, narcotics or high-value property
- Field interviews
- Field eyewitness identification
- Canine deployments
- Knock and talks
- Search warrants
- Drug interdiction activities
- Use of force incidents
- Active shooter response
- Prisoner transports
- Advising an individual of his/her Miranda rights
- Any other enforcement-related activity
- Disorderly crowds civil disturbances
- Domestic violence situations
- Dealing with armed subjects
The camera should not be turned on during casual conversations, meetings, training, meals or in restroom areas.
The hope for LMPD is that all officers will be wearing the camera by the end of 2015.
“This starts with being transparent,” Conrad said, “That's really the whole point of this.”
“I think its really going to make a big change in the perception of stuff,” said one woman, “I think it's going to be a really good thing. I'm glad they're doing this.”
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