INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLFI) - Governor Eric Holcomb has made it a priority to outfit Indiana State Police with Body Cameras in 2021. He has also called for a third-party review of all use of force practices. Since the death of George Floyd in May of last year, law enforcement agencies across the country have been looking at their policies and practices.
“We are really at a crossroads of policing in America and we have this innate opportunity to make it better,” said State Police Superintendent Doug Carter. “We do that through the relationships that we establish, we do that through our efforts, we do that through recognizing that we aren’t superhuman and that we are going to make mistakes.”
Indiana state police troopers currently do not wear body cameras while on the job. Governor Eric Holcomb made it his priority for all ISP troopers to have body cameras by the spring of 2021. It is something Superintendent Doug Carter was not always in favor of but reconsidered when talking to younger officers on the front lines.
"What changed me is young Indiana state troopers out there that say please let us have this technology,” added Superintend Carter. “Why? Because they are scared to death that even if they do the right thing they are going to be wrong."
Carter says he always took a cautious approach to body cameras, especially since some people think that implementing their use creates 100 percent transparency.
“There is a misnomer that it is the be all end all and it will provide complete transparency to any police agency in any situation we find ourselves in and nothing could be further from the truth.”
Carter still does have his concerns over the use of body cameras. He says they only show part of the story since they are strapped to the front of an officer. His worry is if a threat to an officer were to come from behind them, it would not be seen on camera and could be misunderstood from video evidence.
“Most people who are critical of these processes have never been in a physical altercation let alone a deadly force encounter,” added Superintendent Carter. “Remember police go to these threats they don’t create them.”
However he does think adding the body cameras could help with recruiting, especially as younger people begin applying to be police officers.
"They want that technology they want to have the availability of that technology to substantiate what they do," said Superintendent Carter.
Body cameras have existed in some form since 2010. However, they were not as high-tech as they are now.
"By 2014 our agency in West Lafayette was the first police body camera agency in Indiana fully deployed," said Jason Dombkowski a body camera expert.
Dombkowski is the former West Lafayette police chief and an expert on body cameras who works for a company called Bodyworn. The company makes high-tech body cameras for police officers. The cameras are able to automatically record depending on each police agency's policies. He says that good policy is important when a police agency adopts the use of body cameras.
"As we go down that road there is a lot more concentration on policy and policy-based recording,” said Dombkowski. “Having systems that can automatically record to your agency's policy is a big factor these days to make sure that you have the video when you are supposed to have the video for accountability and transparency."
In the state of Indiana, a video that is considered beneficial to a criminal case has to be stored for 190 days. No other state in the country requires that length of storage. Storing that video is expensive and a task that has taken ISP a long time to get set up.
"There are still places in Indiana that don't get a really good internet connection so we had to come up with a cloud-based storage solution, “added Superintendent Carter.
Carter hopes that by implementing the use of body cameras the public’s trust can be restored.
"What I do not want is for the next generation to have to say the things that I am saying to you and that is that I am sorry,” added Superintendent Carter. “We own some of this discord in our profession we own some of the mistrust."
Superintend Carter said that reviewing ISP’s use of force policies is also an important step in regaining the public trust. He believes the use of force should be consistent with every police agency in Indiana. However, he is not in favor of banning chokeholds.
“I don’t understand why we would eliminate a tactic when the bad guy can do it to us,” said Superintendent Carter. “I cannot imagine not giving that tool to a young trooper at 2 in the morning middle of nowhere no one is coming and that’s all they have left. I am not going to prohibit that.”
Carter says that body cameras will be on all 800 Indiana State Police Troopers by the end of spring. He says that over the next five years it will cost millions of dollars for them to add them to their agency.