WPD officers may get body cameras

Winchester leaders are mulling a proposal which would equip the city’s 20 uniformed police officers with body cameras.

Winchester Police Chief Kevin Palmer presented the proposal to the Winchester Board of Commissioners Tuesday evening. Palmer said it would cost $24,000 to purchase 20 cameras and associated equipment and $10,000 annually for storage of the data. An alternative quote would buy 40 cameras, two per officer, and $18,000 annually for storage and licenses.

“It’s long overdue for professional law enforcement to have cameras,” Palmer said. “For what you’re getting, it’s very reasonable. The cameras are only $300 (each).”

The cameras would be supplied on a buy-back program with Taser, he said.

“We have demo-ed these,” Palmer said. “All the officers have worn this. My folks are ready for these.”

Palmer said each uniformed officer would wear a camera during a shift, and 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, he said. The cameras also record the previous 30 seconds, albeit without sound.

Plainclothes officers and undercover officers would not wear the cameras, Palmer said.

“It helps the agency,” Palmer said. “It helps the public. It helps the officer be a better officer.”

The commissioners and city attorney, though, had several questions particularly surrounding release of the videos and the redaction of information from the videos before release. Palmer said they would have the ability to obscure information, such as an uninvolved person’s driver license information, license plates or a juvenile’s face. A model policy fromthe Kentucky League of Cities allows for redaction for privacy or “the integrity of a criminal case.” responsibility for making those redactions would be restricted to the chief or his designee.

Recordings would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, Palmer said.

“I’m concerned about the redaction,” City Attorney Bill Dykeman said. “I think that could get dicey…”

Dykeman said he was discuss the matter with other city attorneys.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “I think it’s well past its time.”

Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner asked about access to the videos and whether attorneys could file a blanket FOI request for months of videos and review them looking for items to file lawsuits.

Palmer said all videos would be purged after 60 days, which he said is a “reasonable” time for recordings to be requested for court proceedings. Also, few within the department would have access to the recordings, he said.

The commissioners will revisit the issue in two weeks and took no action.

During the meeting Tuesday, the commissioners:

— approved event and street closure requests for the Farm to Table dinner and a monthly cruise-in on Depot Street.

— approved two grant requests for Winchester Fire-EMS

— approved waiving the 1 percent occupational tax for an expansion at AGC Corporation in Winchester. The expansion added 30 to 40 jobs, and the incentive will last for up to 10 years.