Ensuring Body Cameras Work

Let us hope the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department never has to use body camera videos in self-defense. But if that day ever comes, the last thing a deputy will want to hear is that the video footage needed cannot be located.

During recent years, many law enforcement agencies have begun equipping officers and deputies with body cameras. The footage can be invaluable in several ways. It can provide unique evidence in criminal cases, including those involving driving while under the influence.

Body cams also can protect officers and deputies accused of wrongdoing such as mistreating suspects. On the other hand, it can prove law enforcement personnel have made mistakes.

As law enforcement agencies were warned, adopting body cams is not as simple as clipping a camera on everyone’s uniform. Storage of video footage is a major challenge. Computer servers with adequate memory and recovery mechanisms are needed.

Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher told county commissioners last week that his department has a problem in that regard. What it amounts to is that the original computer server installed to preserve body cam footage is running out of storage space. And, Fletcher added, the device leaves much to be desired in terms of accessing specific stored videos.

The commission approved purchase of a new server, at a cost of $9,669. That is a lot of money, enough to have covered part of a deputy’s pay or for a major purchase of other equipment.

But Fletcher was right to make the new server a priority.

Officials in Hancock County and other jurisdictions where law enforcement body cams are in use should regard them and related devices as they do cruisers, firearms, body armor and other equipment. Money to replace worn-out cameras, servers, etc., needs to be built into budgets to ensure that deputies, officers and the public can rely on them.