Crothersville police officers have found themselves in situations where a body camera could have made a big difference.
Conducting traffic stops, interviews and search warrants and needing evidence for a criminal case are among the examples.
To prevent the town council from having to find money to pay for body cameras, police officials found a website, BodyCameraDonations.com, where the public can help with funding.
Police Chief Richard Hanlin said the plan is to purchase eight body cameras to equip the four full-time officers and two reserve officers. The other two cameras would be used as backups.
It will take at least $4,000 to purchase the cameras and accessories.
“We’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” Hanlin said. “It’s pretty much a tool that police officers need to have these days to protect themselves along with other citizens. If there are any discrepancies, usually, the officer will have the whole situation on camera, so we can look back and confront them if the stories were different. Then we can actually get the truth out.”
Officer J.L. McElfresh went online to research the different cameras that are available. He found the Wolfcom brand on BodyCameraDonations.com to fit the department’s need.
He said a lot of body camera companies use the online iCloud program to store videos, but Crothersville can’t afford to pay that additional yearly cost, which can be at least $1,000.
BodyCameraDonations.com offers an iCloud version and a standalone version. The latter one allows a department to use its own computers to store videos, so that wouldn’t be an extra expense.
The cameras cost $275. Adding docking stations and point-of-view cameras that can be attached to an officer’s uniform on their shoulder or glasses or sunglasses brings the total to about $500 apiece.
The cameras have 32 gigabytes of storage and record nearly 15 hours of video, and the battery lasts about 23 hours.
Currently, Crothersville is the only police department in Indiana raising money through BodyCameraDonations.com.
Before recently joining the Crothersville Police Department, McEflresh used body cameras while working with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Brownstown Police Department. The Seymour Police Department also has body cameras.
“If you get complaints, you can go back to the video and say, ‘No, that really didn’t happen. Here’s what actually happened,’” he said. “You can submit the video, and it can tend to keep some criminal cases from going to trial. It also helps keep officers in check. The officer knows it’s there, the officer knows it’s on, and they know that their behavior is going to be on video, so it helps there, too.
“There’s really no downside to having them,” he said. “I can’t say that there really is one just because it can help everybody. It’s an all-round good thing, it really is.”
As donations come in, McElfresh said they will focus on purchasing the body cameras first. Then as donations keep coming in, they will look at purchasing accessories.
The easiest way for people to make a donation is online at BodyCameraDonations.com. On the site, click on “Agency list” and then “Crothersville Police Department.” There, you can watch a YouTube video created specifically for the department and click on a link to make a donation.
A form also can be picked up at the police department at 404 Moore St. to fill out and mail along with a check or money order.
None of the money comes to the department itself.
If the donations come in to allow the department to purchase the cameras, a policy will have to be put in place, explaining when an officer has to have the camera on and the retention period for different types of video.
“We just hope to get them pretty soon, hopefully by the end of the year. We need to get these going. The sooner, the better,” Hanlin said. “We’re trying to get it out there and see what we can raise first. Every little bit helps because with our limited budget, we have other items we want to buy this year, and if we can get these covered, that would be great.”
How to make a donation to help the Crothersville Police Department purchase body cameras
Visit BodyCameraDonations.com, click on “Agency list” and then “Crothersville Police Department.” On that page, you can watch a YouTube video made specifically for the department and click on a link to make a donation.
Fill out a form and mail it in along with a check or money order. The form is accessible by stopping by the police station at 404 Moore St. or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.