WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Body cameras are giving law enforcement a chance to be more transparent.
However, all the footage is also providing an increased work load.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says his office sent more than 16,000 videos to defense attorneys last year.
Bennett says he expects that number to grow substantially in the coming year.
“Every crime they respond to is going to have at least one body camera employed and recording, more serious crimes, more officers will respond, so a murder, there may be 20, 30 cameras,” said Bennett.
Bennett says 74 percent of his cases pertaining to body cameras comes from the Wichita Police Department.
The department currently has 429 body cameras, outfitting all patrol officers.
Bennett says he asked for two attorneys help this past year to sift through body camera footage, which he says helped decrease some of the work load in his office.
“I’m going to ask for four part-time people, what we call permanent part-time positions, permanent meaning they are on my staffing chart permanently,” said Bennett.
Bennett says he’s looking for people with police backgrounds, like retired police officers or police officers that are looking to earn some extra money.
The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, along with the 18th Judicial District Court and the District Attorney’s Office, presented their plan to the Board of County Commissioners during their recent budget hearings.
“The total tab that’s going to hit our budget in the next year is about $500,000,” said Dave Unruh, Sedgwick County Commission Chairman.
Unruh says that request is essential and sees it as the county’s obligation to fund it.
The problem being, Unruh says, is finding the money to do so.
“Part of it is going to have to be from perhaps some cuts in some departments, reductions in what we are doing,” said Unruh.
Bennett says the four positions he’s asking for would cost over $80,000 to fund.
It’s something he feels would go a long way in helping review all the body camera footage that will come in over the next year.
“We need these four part times to help us go through this information and at least point the attorneys in an expedited manner to the most relevant information,” said Bennett.
Bennett says beyond reviewing body camera footage, the four part-time people he’s hoping to be able to hire will also review surveillance camera footage.
This includes homes, businesses and even Old Town when their cameras are up and running by the end of next month.
The ultimate decision on this will come in August, when the BOCC votes on their budget for the next year.