Jeffersonville Police Department suspending body camera program - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Jeffersonville Police Department suspending body camera program

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Another southern Indiana police department is turning off its body cameras. This time, it's the Jeffersonville Police Department.

And we're told it all comes down to cost, court and criminals.

Chief Kenny Kavanaugh proudly spoke of transparency in May 2015 as the Jeffersonville Police Department started training officers on body cameras -- but on Friday, he was refusing interviews after ordering his police department's body cameras program to fade to black.

House Bill 1019 passed the General Assembly without a single "no" vote. It lays out the rules for law enforcement agencies who choose to use body cameras. 

Among the concerns is the bill's requirement that police departments store the videos for 6-9 nine months and up to two years, if requested. That requires a large video server for storage, not too different from what we work with at the television station. But the chief says he can't afford it, and that he doesn't have video equipment to cut, blur or edit footage as needed. 

Some defense lawyers are skeptical

"I believe the message to the community is, 'We no longer want to shine the light of day on everything we do to protect ourselves and provide evidence to convict you bad guys -- we just want to go back to the darkness we had before,'" said attorney Larry Wilder.

In a statement, Kavanaugh says he still believes in the use of body cameras and is, "exploring viable options to re-initiate the program."

"If he doesn't have the storage space, then he doesn't have the storage space," said Ed Umbreit, a taxpayer. "I think it would be nice." 

"That's just getting an excuse to go ahead and mistreat people when they pull them over," said taxpayer Bill Tanner. 

The body cam debate comes as public trust is tempered -- the footage often becomes a body slam for either the prosecution or the defense, as was the case in Clarksville, when Ghasson Yaldo was acquitted of driving drunk, resisting arrest and battery of a police officer after the jury saw the body camera footage.

Clarksville also suspended its program, citing concerns with the new law. 

Senator Ron Grooms says it looks like a well-intentioned bill needs some tweaks. 

"If there are enough police departments not following this and doing the actual video-taping or wearing the body camera, then that's a signal that maybe we need to look at this and do something different," Grooms said.

What happens next is a waiting game. Indiana lawmakers could tweak House Bill 1019, but not until January. Police departments that stopped using the body cameras could invest in the needed equipment before then.

Copyright 2016 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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