INDIANAPOLIS – Body cameras have been distributed to nearly one-third of front-line Indiana state troopers almost a year after the governor announced the step as part of the state’s response to racial injustice concerns, state police officials said Thursday.
Distribution of the body and in-car cameras started last month and should be completed in late August, officials said. Cameras have so far been distributed to some 230 agency personnel of the nearly 800 who are set to receive them. Those include uniformed troopers and sergeants assigned to patrol duties, Capitol Police officers and some Special Operations units.
The camera system, which is estimated to cost about $15million to operate over five years, includes sensors that automatically turn on the cameras whenever a trooper’s handgun is drawn or a patrol car’s emergency lights are activated, state police Superintendent Doug Carter said.
“The fail safes are really there to get that on at the appropriate time,” Carter said.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said last August that he wanted all front-line troopers to have body cameras by this spring. He made that announcement during a Statehouse speech several weeks after protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota turned violent in Indianapolis and left behind widespread damage to downtown businesses. Floyd, a Black man, was killed in May 2020 after then-Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed a knee on his neck.
Carter said the process of selecting the camera vendor and buying them was complex, including finding ways to have those cameras connected to the internet in rural areas of the state. The camera system includes a router installed in patrol vehicles that improves connectivity in areas with limited cellphone coverage.
“The rural part of the state has always been a problem with internet connectivity,” Carter said. “The technology that we currently have really does explode that connectivity.”
The state police cameras are coming after state legislators this year approved a new law with misdemeanor penalties for police officers who turn off body cameras with intent to conceal.
That was a provision of a bill that won unanimous House and Senate approval and included for mandatory de-escalation training, bans on chokeholds in certain circumstances and establish a procedure for the law enforcement training board to decertify officers who commit misconduct.
Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed said the city’s officers are being trained in body cam use in groups of 25 to 30, and he hopes to get all the cameras installed by the end of this year.
In March, the Fort Wayne City Council approved the purchase of 320 cameras for the Fort Wayne Police Department.
Originally, the department asked to buy 100 cameras.
Total cost for the body cameras is nearly $1 million, including more than $300,000 set aside by the council in October to buy the initial 100 cameras.
About $83,000 will be paid with a federal Justice Assistance Grant awarded to FWPD.
At the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, there are no immediate plans to outfit its deputies or Allen County Jail confinement officers with body cameras, according to Sheriff David Gladieux.
“It’ll happen after me,” said Gladieux, whose term runs through 2022. “There are pros and cons.”
Jamie Duffy of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.