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Police get-body cam approval

BY NICK MOFFITT | SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa City police will now be armed with new equipment — body cams.

On Tuesday evening, the Iowa City City Council voted 7-0 to approve a resolution authorizing the Iowa City police to purchase body cameras.

The cost will be approximately $211,000, which will allow the police to buy a body-worn digital camera system and a storage solution for the saved video.

After receiving numerous proposals, the police and Information Technology Services Division has recommended that the cameras be purchased from Wolfcom Enterprises.

Police Capt. Doug Hart, who spoke on behalf of the police at the meeting, said they believe moving forward with the cameras is a positive for both residents and officers.

“The benefit of cameras is that they offer an unbiased view of the incident,” Hart said.

Hart also said the police will attend a conference on updated police technology next month, which could lead to even more advanced cameras.

Public comment was allowed on the issue that was pulled from the consent calendar — which does not include public comment — into its own item.

Sean Curtin of Iowa City spoke against the cameras, saying that if the officer can chose whether to turn it on, it is not enough.

Curtin said even with the pilot program, there have been complaints of officers not turning them on.

He spoke at the meeting of a video that has recently gained traction, showing a police bust of a house on South Johnson Street. Curtin said that even though one of the officers at the house had a camera, it was not turned on.

Police policy currently states that in incidents, officers are required to turn on cameras and must go through a report of inquiry process from the department and could face additional consequences depending on the internal review.

City Councilor Susan Mims was concerned that the cameras would have to be turned on physically by the officer.

“It requires the officer to hop on an emergency call and hope they think to turn it on,” she said.

Hart said through a pilot program and their previous dash-cam program the police have been keeping video for three years, something they aim to continue to do. Hart said this will be possible with the current technology.

Councilor Kingsley Botchway said that although the technology isn’t all the way there yet, it is important to get cameras on officers.

Botchway said one problem for the cameras could be access to the video, something he said he didn’t know was public record until last night’s meeting.

He said the cameras would speak to the level of transparency the police offer currently and will offer with the cameras.

“The council is just really wanting to get it out to the community,” Botchway said.


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