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Purchasing Additional Body Cameras Discussed By City Council

Retired Jamestown Police Department officer Jeff Russell, At-Large councilman, has proposed that all officers, including detectives and their supervisors, should wear body cameras when interacting with the public. Currently, only uniform officers are mandated to use body cameras when interacting with the public. P-J file photo

Should the Jamestown Police Department start from scratch with the type of body camera their officers use or just buy additional ones for detectives and their supervisors.

The Jamestown City Council discussed the options of equipping each officer in the department with a body camera during its work session meeting Monday. Lt. Timothy Jackson, interim Jamestown Police Department chief, was asked by Brent Sheldon, Ward 1 councilman, if there are issues with the body cameras — Safety Vision — the department currently uses.

According to a report by Jackson included in the information provided to the council members and media prior to the work session meeting, Mark Dean and Joshua Mains, city information technology specialists, recommend maintaining an in-house supply of 64 cameras, which would equip every officer and ensure three additional devices. Both Dean and Mains would like to switch the type of body camera the officers use because there have been problems from Safety Vision to Panasonic models. Both Dean and Mains recommend not intermingling the two brands of cameras worn by officers. It would cost $86,000 to equip the entire department with new Panasonic cameras.

Jackson said during the work session meeting that he disagrees on spending that much money to equip the whole department with the Panasonic cameras. He suggested buying 20 of the new Panasonic cameras at the cost of $19,600. He added it would probably cost less if the department would buy an additional 20 Safety Vision cameras. Jackson said there has been some issues with the Safety Vision cameras as far as downloading videos.

“I disagree with spending that much money on body cameras,” Jackson said about spending $86,000 for 64 Panasonic cameras instead of $19,600 to purchase 20.

Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist said city officials are examining how to purchase the new cameras, which would most likely be done either through the city budget contingency fund or asset forfeiture money.

During a discussion on the exemptions for when officers don’t need to wear body cameras, Sheldon asked Jackson why they don’t when they do “no-knock” search warrants. Jackson said it’s for safety reasons. He said no-knock search warrants are usually executed by the SWAT team. He said it’s typical for most police departments not to use body cameras during no-knock search warrants. He added the city typically does 12 to 24 no-knock search warrants a year.

Vickye James, Ward 3 councilwoman, also wondered why police officers don’t wear body cameras during no-knock search warrants because of the Breonna Taylor shooting in Louisville. Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician, was allegedly fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers March 13. Allegedly three plainclothes Louisville police officers executed a no-knock search warrant to enter Taylor’s apartment.

Jeff Russell, At-Large councilman who is also a retired officer of the Jamestown Police Department, said he has served on the SWAT team with Jackson and they’ve executed hundreds of no-knock warrants in the city. He said it’s important for officers to be able to use no-knock search warrants so alleged criminals don’t have time to flush drugs down a toilet or to obtain a weapon.

Sheldon said because of the difference of opinion about how many cameras to purchase and how the city will fund buying new body cameras that the council will continue discussing the issue before any final decision is reached. The council is discussing detectives and their supervisors, which would include a captain and a lieutenant, wearing body cameras after Russell proposed it would be a good idea for all department officers to wear one. Currently, only uniform police officers wear body cameras.

In other business, Sundquist asked Matthew Coon, deputy fire chief, and Jackson to discuss year-to-date call statistics. Coon said so far this year there have been 86 fires in the city. He said last year at this same time, the department had only battled 76 fires, which is a 13% increase.

Coon said so far this year the fire department has transported 793 by ambulance to the hospital. At this point last year, the department had only handled 493, which is a 61% increase. He said this year the department has made 2,004 EMS calls. Last year at this time, the department had only answered 1,660 EMS calls, a hike of 21%.

Jackson said year-to-date, the police department has responded to 1,201 domestic incident calls. Last year at this time, he said the department had responded to 1,166. He said this year the department has responded to 410 complaints of fireworks. He said last year at this time, they had only reported to 140 complaints of fireworks.

Sundquist added that the number of complaints the police department has received because of fireworks has significantly been reduced during the past couple weeks.

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