From the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to Breonna Taylor's death in in Louisville, Kentucky, this year, officer involved shootings of unarmed, black citizens have led to increased tensions and more scrutiny of law enforcement across the nation.
In recent years, many such shootings have been caught on police body-worn camera videos or on the cellphones of bystanders.
For Vincennes Police Department Chief Bob Dunham, the more cameras monitoring officers and their interactions with the public, the better.
“We say ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ and the more video you have in any given situation will help bring out the truth,” Dunham said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”
This past week, every police officer with VPD was outfitted with a new body camera, replacing ones purchased approximately five years ago that were found to be faulty.
“The body cameras we had weren’t safe for the officers,” Dunham said, adding that “the battery packs kept swelling up.”
Though the costs of body cameras themselves are no longer prohibitive to smaller departments, the price of storing all the data recorded on those cameras can climb pretty quickly for a law enforcement staff of nearly 40 officers.
National rates of purchasing cameras and storing data range between $1,500 and $5,000 per camera.
Dunham said he worked with Mayor Joe Yochum and used revenue from the police department’s share of paid court fines to purchase the body cams.
The chief, who has pleased to see all his officers with the new devices, say his officers have no problem wearing the cameras.
“I think it’s a plus for citizens and officers,” he said. “Citizens know what they say and do are being recorded. The same is true for officers.
“It usually puts everyone on their best behavior and prevents problems.”
To Dunham, a body-worn or car-mounted camera, is just another tool to help keep the public safe and holding citizens and officers accountable.
“A camera is one of the best ways to document crimes, take statements from people, and to document the communication between the public and the officer,” he said. “It can show when there are problems with an officer, or it can vindicate them.”
The Knox County Sheriff’s Department added body cameras in 2015.
The Bicknell Police Department added them three years ago. Knox County Prosecutor Dirk Carnahan worked with Mayor Thomas Estabrook to purchase the cameras, using money seized during a December 2015 drug raid.
Upon striking a deal last year with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement protection, Bicknell, until recently, had only one remaining police officer.
When a complaint of misconduct was filed against that officer, Jacob Fischer, the city’s Board of Works and city attorney Michael Edwards used his body camera footage to review the incident.
Fischer’s employment was later terminated as the board found him to be guilty of conduct unbecoming a police officer and conduct injurious to the public peace or welfare after he broke a woman’s driver’s side window using his during a traffic stop.
Assistant editor Jenny McNeece contributed to this report.