The Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office have been awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice in order to implement and maintain a body-worn camera program. Each agency will make a matching $150,000 contribution toward the program totaling $600,000. Both agencies jointly applied for the grant in February of this year.
This grant and associated matching contributions will ultimately be used to purchase body-worn cameras for all officers and deputies working in a patrol function within their respective agencies. It will also be used to cover the initial purchase of cameras and associated equipment for both agencies. The grant will also cover the ongoing cost of digital evidence storage for two years. Additionally, one full-time employee will be added to facilitate the transfer of video evidence collected by the program, as well as assisting with needs as digital evidence makes its way through the court process.
“The RCPD has been thoroughly researching body-worn cameras for the last five years,” says Lt. Mark Eisenbraun of the RCPD’s Criminal Investigations Division. “In that time, body-worn cameras have been an emerging technology in the world of law enforcement. The evolution of this technology has hit a point in which we feel confident in implementing it into the daily work of our officers. Once we do so, it will potentially be the largest program of its kind in the state of South Dakota.”
Prior to applying for this grant, the RCPD’s Community Advisory Committee has endorsed the decision to move forward with a body-worn camera program. The CAC serves as an independent group of citizens who work to tackle important issues central to the overall well-being of Rapid City, and advise Rapid City’s Chief of Police how the RCPD can be effective in helping to do so.
“The CAC has had, and will continue to have, thorough discussions on policies pertaining to body-worn cameras,” says Community Advisory Coordinator Vaughn Vargas. “We recognize and appreciate the benefits of body-worn cameras for evidentiary purposes. We, as a committee, stand by the RCPD and its decision to implement body-worn cameras. The committee has a vested interest in this program, and we will be involved in the process as it moves forward.”
The RCPD and PCSO are currently working to develop policy pertaining to the use of this new technology. Certain considerations must be made to every possible situation a law enforcement officer may encounter in their daily duties. These considerations include; when the recording function of the camera is activated, where an officer can record, and how long digital video evidence must be stored.
“Implementing body-worn cameras is a huge undertaking for an agency of our size,” says RCPD Records and Technology Manager Jennie Clabo, who serves as project manager for this implementation. “Our project team has spent countless hours researching the most current and best practices for the use of this technology. Body-worn cameras are a powerful tool in modern law enforcement that will undoubtedly enhance our ability to document evidence during investigations and hold offenders accountable across Rapid City and Pennington County.”
The RCPD and PCSO intend to begin a body-worn camera pilot program in January of 2018. This pilot program will allow a small fraction of patrol officers and deputies to test and offer feedback on body-worn camera systems from three different manufacturers. Results of the pilot program will be used to determine which of the three systems best meets the needs of the two agencies.
The body-worn camera program is expected to be fully implemented in both agencies by the summer of 2018.