WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The need for body cameras has caught up with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s office. Last year, the city of Wichita spent millions getting their officers into body cams, and now, the county is looking into doing the same for its deputies. Wednesday KSN spoke to the sheriff who tells us dash cams have been a great resource but they aren’t doing enough. A few years ago 20 of their deputies received body cams and it made such a difference that the sheriff is asking for 100 more.
“Everybody sees T.V. shows and there’s DNA and finger prints for everything,” explained Sheriff Jeff Easter. “For a murder case, it will show that they charged it and got a conviction in an hour; in real life that doesn’t happen.”
Easter says that the body cams are a more reliable source but currently Sedgwick County patrol cars only have dash cams. The dash cams allow the front view of a patrol car to be documented whereas a body cam can document everything the officer sees and hears. The sheriff is now working toward adding 75 more body cams to his department at a cost of $1,000 each. However, Easter says the body cams are meant to be an addition to the dash cams, not a replacement.
“We talked about going straight to body cameras only,” said Easter. “There has been three different officer involved shootings recently; the most recent, without the dash cam, wouldn’t have allowed us to see what the suspect did when the deputy turned away from the car.”
One obstacle for implementing more cameras, is the cost for the storage of more video, but deputies say it’s worth it.
“You know things kind of start veering one way or another and I remind them that everything is being recorded and I think that kind of takes the edge off,” said deputy Timothy Hallacy. “If they think I’m leading them or something like that I say hey look, everything I do can be scrutinized just like everything you do and it puts people at ease to be honest with you.”
Sheriff Easter says it also backs up a deputy’s testimony in court.
“Because of our pride and ego, the fact that jurors don’t believe my word is frustrating in court,” said Easter. “I understand there’s been incidents across the nations that’s caused that to happen but most police officers, you can believe their word.”