JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. - For some police departments, wearable cameras are becoming as important as carrying a weapon.
A small body camera only weighs a few ounces but it’s cutting back on hundreds of citizen complaints against the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department.
Officers with the department note the cameras can cost anywhere from $300 to $800 each. With 80 cameras, it’s a big expense up front.
Master Deputy Shannon Chase thinks the cost is worth it, saying it’s keeping deputies out of the courtroom, saving the department both money and time.
“Not only does it protect us as an officer, but it protects the public from an officer being brash or rude or any unprofessional manner,” he said.
Chase wears his camera on his glasses for every shift, noting it takes just a couple of taps to start recording. The camera even backtracks 30 seconds to make sure all interaction between an officer and citizen can be used as evidence.
“Every DUI I come across, I’m extremely grateful. There are so many things a video camera inside your vehicle can’t pick up, or even a domestic violence situation,” Chase said.
The Lenexa-based company Digital Ally manufactures body and dash cameras for law enforcement. Since the unrest in Ferguson, the company has taken dozens of phone calls from police departments across the nation.
“People are waking up. This would have been fairly easy to prevent. I shouldn't say prevent, but at least you would have had a real clear cut understanding of what happened (in Ferguson,)” Digital Ally CEO Stan Ross explained.
In the Kansas City metro area, only a handful of departments own body cameras, including Johnson County, Leawood and Olathe. However, many departments said buying the technology is a priority.
“A picture is worth 1,000 words. Rather than me try to paint a story with my words, it’s all in video,” Chase added.