Sher­iff’s Of­fice an­nounces use of body cam­eras

30 cam­eras de­ployed to deputies to in­crease ac­count­abil­ity, as­sist with in­ves­ti­ga­tions

The Phoenix - - LOCAL NEWS - By Os­car Gam­ble ogam­[email protected]­tu­ry­media. com @OGam­ble_TH on Twit­ter

NOR­RIS­TOWN >> In an ef­fort to main­tain and in­crease ac­count­abil­ity and as­sist pros­e­cu­tors with crime in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the Mont­gomery County Sher­iff’s Of­fice is now out­fit­ting deputies with body cam­eras.

Mont­gomery County Sher­iff Sean Kilkenny re­cently an­nounced the de­ploy­ment of 30 body cams that will be used mainly in the war­rants and civil di­vi­sions but also in serv­ing and en­forc­ing Pro­tec­tion From Abuse or­ders and dur­ing high-risk trans­ports.

The cam­eras have al­ready been as­signed to deputies at the en­trance to the county court­house.

The de­vices, man­u­fac­tured by law en­force­ment tech­nol­ogy com­pany Axon, can take about 70 hours of footage which will be main­tained in the of­fice’s records for about 2 years per county pol­icy, Kilkenny said.

They also fea­ture a preevent buf­fer mode that can cap­ture up to two min­utes of in­audi­ble video be­fore the ‘record’ but­ton is pressed.

Each cam­era costs $240 and the de­part­ment in­vested $12,000 for a back­end server.

The sher­iff’s of­fice opted to go with Axon Body 2 cam­eras — which are mounted to an of­fi­cer’s uni­form with mag­net-bear­ing brack­ets — af­ter eval­u­at­ing body cam of­fer­ings from sev­eral com­pa­nies and deter­min­ing that Axon pro­vided “by far the best tech­nol­ogy” to suit the de­part­ment’s needs, ex­plained Chief Deputy Adam Berry.

Ac­cord­ing to Cor­po­ral Harry Burke, each deputy who will be is­sued a cam­era was trained in pol­icy, pro­ce­dure and op­er­a­tion of the body cams over the course of a trial pe­riod that be­gan in April.

Burke said of­fi­cers will use the cam­eras when pulling up to in­ves­ti­ga­tion scenes, call­ing into county ra­dio, or any time a deputy feels that it would be ben­e­fi­cial to record and doc­u­ment a par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent

“On the back end, once the in­for­ma­tion is up­loaded, deputies can as­sign an ev­i­dence tag and add doc­u­men­ta­tion to the video so it can be used in court­room tes­ti­mony or fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” Burke said.

By state law, the cam­eras them­selves can’t cur­rently be used in court­rooms, but the footage they cap­ture in the field can, and Burke said video ev­i­dence from one of the body cams has al­ready helped pros­e­cute a PFA vi­o­la­tor.

“The ac­count­abil­ity is on the ev­i­dence,” noted Kilkenny, adding that An IP ad­dress is recorded each time a video is viewed, and footage could be re­leased to the pub­lic in ac­cor­dance with “right to know” re­quest pro­ce­dures.

“We are the fore­run­ner of sher­iff’s of­fices in de­ploy­ing body cams but many law en­force­ment agen­cies through­out the county and the na­tion are do­ing so to in­crease ac­count­abil­ity,” he said.

“We want to in­crease trans­parency in the pub­lic know­ing what our of­fi­cers are do­ing and help­ing our DA and pros­e­cu­tors solve crimes in Mont­gomery County.”

OS­CAR GAM­BLE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Flanked by Cpl. Harry Burke, left, and Chief Deputy Adam Berry, right, Mont­gomery County Sher­iff Sean Kilkenny an­nounces the use of body cam­eras by sher­iff’s deputies Mon­day at the Mont­gomery County Court­house in Nor­ris­town.

OS­CAR GAM­BLE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

This Axon Body 2 cam­era is worn by Cpl. Harry Burke of the Mont­gomery County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment.

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