Our View: Body cameras would be wise investment

Published 7:57 am Friday, February 10, 2017

Having body cameras on local law enforcement officers would be a win for the Winchester Police Department but, just as important, it would be a win for the community.

Body cameras have become a hot trend in recent years and now is a good time for Winchester to take advantage of technology that increases safety for officers, allows law enforcement agencies to target training efforts, holds officers and the public more accountable and offers compelling evidence to use in court.

Each uniformed officer would wear a camera during a shift. They would turn it in at the end to download data and charge. The cameras begin recording when the officer either activates the camera manually or turns on his cruiser’s emergency lights. The cameras also record the previous 30 seconds, albeit without sound.

With an upfront cost of at least $24,000 and annual storage and license fees ranging from $10,000 to $18,000, this is a decision the board of commissioners must consider carefully. However, we feel the benefits for the officers and the community far outweigh the costs.

First, body cameras add some measure of safety for officers as they serve as at least a minor deterrent to those breaking the law.

Second, the videos will be able to be used as evidence in court proceedings to help ensure those who break the law receive the appropriate sentences.

Finally, having video of traffic stops and other incidents provides specific training opportunities and gives supervisors the ability to hold officers accountable for their actions if a mistake is made and generally just create a better system of checks and balances to ensure that relationship between law enforcement and community remains strong here in Central Kentucky.

It is hard to put a price tag on that level of impact, but we certainly think this would be money well spent.