DeKalb County police will be outfitted with body cameras

DeKalb County has approved the purchase of 600 BodyWorn smartphone cameras. (Credit: Utility Inc.)

DeKalb County has approved the purchase of 600 BodyWorn smartphone cameras. (Credit: Utility Inc.)

DeKalb County police plan to outfit uniformed officers with body cameras within as little as two months, officials said Wednesday.

The county board of commissioners recently approved the purchase of 600 Utility Inc. BodyWorn cameras to outfit "its entire uniform division in order to enhance transparency, accountability and officer safety." Authorities said the entire department is expected to be outfitted with the body cameras within 60 days.

But, according to Utility Inc., the devices are “more than just a body camera.”

“It’s a full camera system,” Utility Inc. Chief Revenue Officer Chris Lindenau said.

Lindenau pointed out some of the device’s properties, namely the “functional fusion to the uniform.” The BodyWorn software operates on a smartphone embedded into an external part of an officer’s uniform. It is inserted into a pocket in the officer’s uniform, rather than being mounted externally.

“The camera always points forward and will not fall off during a struggle or when the officer is running,” Lindenau said.

The device’s smartphone capabilities enable it to wirelessly upload video nearly immediately to storage in a police car or cloud storage. DeKalb County also purchased Utility’s integrated vehicle communication system, Rocket, which turns police cars into Wi-Fi hotspots allowing for faster mobile uploads.

“The officers do not have to go to a police station to upload video manually,” Vice President of Technology Simon Araya said. “The officers do not have to go anywhere they would not normally go to upload video.”

The cameras do not have to be activated manually; they can turn on and begin recording automatically in response to certain triggers such as sensors in a patrol car being activated or changes in speed that could indicate an officer is involved in a chase.

According to Utility Inc., the cost of the smartphone body camera devices is less than what is typical of a clip-on body camera. Utility Inc. estimated the cost of the BodyWorn cameras to be a little less than $9,000 per device after five years of ownership.

According to the Justice Department, 15 deaths have resulted from DeKalb police use of force since 2010.

In January, a DeKalb officer was indicted for murder in the March 2015 fatal shooting of Anthony Hill, a mentally ill military veteran. Hill was unarmed and naked at the time. Officer Robert Olsen — the officer who shot Hill — was not wearing a body camera.

“(The cameras are) an effort to increase transparency and police accountability,” Police Chief James Conroy said.