University police continue search for body cameras

By Lilly Mashayek , Staff Writer

Body cameras have already proven to be useful in solving crimes for the University Police Department, according to Chief Jeff Christensen.

The cameras are already in use, he said, and an officer was wearing one at the scene of the shooting on Green Street in September. He said the footage could potentially be used in the trial as evidence.

The department initially started testing out the cameras in mid-August. They looked at a few different companies to test options and evaluate each one to see what would work best for the department. Christensen said so far they’ve used two companies and are looking at testing a third and maybe a fourth. After that, they will put together recommendations for their preferred camera.

“It’s a big investment and it’s technology and everybody is in the marketplace with these, so what we get we wanna make sure it interfaces with our other systems,” he said.

The footage from the body cameras must be easy to duplicate, in case it is needed for court cases, FOIA requests or other instances where the footage may be needed, Christensen said.

“Data storage for video footage is very expensive, and it’s hard to guarantee funds for such a significant project with such an unpredictable budget situation for our department,” said UIPD Spokesperson Patrick Wade in an email.  

The officers have already tested VIEVU and Taser brands and will test camera Arbitrator by Panasonic.

“Both have their benefits and drawbacks — it’s hard to say which is the best liked at this point as we are still testing other models and gathering feedback from our officers who have used them,” Wade said. “It will really be a matter of which one best serves our community from a functionality and price standpoint.”

He said each camera is tested for several weeks.

“That gives us a good idea of its functionality, ease of use and how it might dovetail with systems we already have in place,” he said.

If UIPD does decide to use body cameras, the department will still have to find a way to pay for the cameras and for storing the camera footage.

“We’ll need to determine the cost and then we’ll need to look at potential funding,” Christensen said. “We want to make sure that we can handle the storage, not only space-wise but also cost-wise.”

Wade said the department doesn’t have a “definite timeline” as to when a body camera will be chosen.

“At the moment, we’re just trying to get an idea of what would work best for us, ” he said. “We also want to be sure we’re getting the best camera system for the price and for serving the community.”

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