SBPD dashboard camera policy called into question

Published: Aug. 2, 2019 at 4:18 PM EDT
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The officer-involved shooting death of Eric Logan in June has called into question the South Bend Police Department's policy on body cameras.

Officers have the ability to turn off those cameras at their discretion, and it turns out they also have the ability to turn off their dashcams.

South Bend Police have a policy for when those dashboard cameras record, but a local attorney and community leader told 16 News Now there should be more accountability than what is currently in place.

"I believe that they should not have that discretion to shift those cameras on and off," attorney Tasha Reed Outlaw said.

Dashcams sit at the front of squad cars, recording an officer's interactions with the public. Outlaw says there's no reason for those cameras to stop rolling.

"Having these incidents recorded builds trust with the community, it keeps everyone honest, and I think, ultimately, that is the key in the entire situation, not just suspects, but police officers as well," Outlaw said.

16 News Now went to the South Bend Police department to learn more about their dashcam policy. They denied an on-camera interview, but they did issue a statement saying, in part:

"The South Bend Police Department in-car cameras are always on while an officer is on duty. Recordings are started when the light bar is activated or when the vehicle reaches a set speed"

This means if a police officer flips on the light bar, the camera starts recording. If they flip those lights off, the recordings cut off.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 36 says there are appropriate times to shut it down.

"We need to be able to deactivate," FOP Lodge No. 36 President Harvey Mills said. "There are several concerns that come to mind: [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] violations are concerns, sexual assault victims may not want to be recorded, confidential informants, juveniles."

It is a case of officer discretion versus some calling for total transparency in police departments.

"The more that we can capture these incidents on camera or video recording, I think the better it would be for community trust, the better it would be for the police department, the better it would be for the city," Outlaw said.

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