Body cam demo highlights technology of devices

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Dubois County Sheriff Tom Kleinhelter, left, Detective Sgt. Jesus Monarrez, Jasper Police Chief Nathan Schmitt and City of Jasper Director of Personnel and Safety Cale Knies listen as BodyWorn Midwest Sales Manager John Watson demonstrates how the body camera automatically turns on when an officer removes their gun from its holster at the Dubois County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday.


The new age of body and car cameras includes a lot of technology that takes away the dependence on officers to make sure the cameras are recording.

Now, different factors can be used to make cameras turn on and record automatically. And then recordings can be stored instantly and seen by police officials immediately.

In fact, the recording can be live-streamed to police officials as the incident is happening.

Members of the Dubois County Sheriff’s office, Dubois County Council and Jasper Police Department saw an equipment demonstration Tuesday by BodyWorn, the company from which JPD is getting its body and car cameras for its officers.

Sheriff Tom Kleinhelter is considering different companies in his search for new cameras, and decided to bring in BodyWorn for a demonstration Tuesday morning at the security center.

The demonstration showed how the new system can be set to automatically turn itself on based on different triggers.

“Why are we asking our officers to turn on their cameras when the crap hits the fan?” asked John Watson, Midwest sales manager for BodyWorn. “Let the system work for you. How much more accountable, how much more transparent can you get when the officer doesn’t even have to turn the thing on, when the system is doing it for them?”

Those triggers can include when an officer is arriving to a location the officer has been called out to, if the police vehicle reaches a high rate of speed, when the officer’s gun is removed from its holster or when a shot is fired by the officer or someone else.

A body camera is worn by BodyWorn Midwest Sales Manager John Watson during a demonstration at the Dubois County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday.

“In this day and age, if a gun is coming out on a call, we better have our cameras turned on,” Watson said.

The system can also detect when an officer is on the ground for some reason. In those cases, alerts can be sent to dispatch and other officers letting them know that the officer may need help.

“It will also send turn-by-turn directions of how to get to that officer to help,” Watson explained. “The officer does not need to be on the radio requesting help and telling them where he is. They will know where he is.”

The body camera is a dedicated smartphone that is embedded into the officer’s uniform. Kleinhelter said afterward that the body cameras some officers have now are clip-on.

“Those can come off,” he said. “It can be as simple as taking off your seat belt, and that clip can fly off.”

Those cameras also have to be turned on by the officer, he said.

For detectives who do not normally wear a full uniform, the camera can be put onto a lanyard and worn around the detective’s neck. There are also cameras for the patrol car. One is on the rearview mirror to see out the front window. The other is facing the backseat, to watch a suspect who may be in the car. A removable tablet controls those cameras and acts as a viewing screen.

“So an officer may be outside of his car talking to a witness,” Watson said. “He can take the tablet with him to still see what the suspect is doing in the back seat.”

The recorded video that is automatically sent back to the station can be seen by police officials instantly. The current system that’s being used takes a while to download the footage, Kleinhelter said. The new system would do that in seconds.

The video could also be sent to the prosecutor’s office and even to the media, based on how the officer sets its settings. Pieces of the video can be sent, and faces can be blurred in sensitive cases, Watson explained.

Kleinhelter said he likes the system, but wants to see what other companies are offering.

“We are still investigating systems to see which one would work best for us,” he said. “We’ve seen one already, and will look at another.”

He is also determining which officers need which kind of camera. Once he has done that and determined which system works best for the sheriff’s office, Kleinhelter will go back to the county council to request funding for the new cameras.

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