The unblinking eye

Webster County sheriff says body cameras are working out well

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Webster County Sheriff's Deputy April Murray shows the button officers push to activate their body cameras while on patrol. The department recently got a camera for every road deputy. The cameras record audio and video of the deputies interactions with the public.

Anyone who has interacted with a Webster County sheriff’s deputy over the past few months may have noticed something different about their uniforms.

That’s because, since January, every road deputy who patrols Webster County has been wearing a body camera.

Sheriff Jim Stubbs said he has been looking at getting body cameras for his deputies for about a year and a half and was recently able to secure enough money to buy them.

That money included the budget, private donations and a federal grant from the United States Department of Justice.

Now that the cameras have been used by the deputies for a couple of months, Stubbs said everything has been working out.

Though he said initially there were a few hiccups.

“As with anything new, there’s always a glitch or two with the new technology,” Stubbs said. “But I think we have most of that worked out.”

The department has 12 body cameras, which means there is one for every road deputy.

The deputies wear the cameras at all times, according to Stubbs, except when the video is being downloaded onto the department’s server.

“By our policy, they are on the majority of the time, except for when our policy dictates as far as victims or something like that of a crime that does not need to be videoed,” Stubbs said. “Otherwise, they’re on for most all other interactions with the public.”

Once the video is captured by the body camera, Stubbs said the deputies can label parts of the video that need to be kept. Footage that will not be needed is not saved.

That’s to save storage space on the server, according to Stubbs.

“Obviously we doubled the amount of video we have between the cars,” he said. “We have 12 in-car systems and 12 body cameras, so we doubled the storage amount.”

Stubbs added the cameras are very sturdy and can’t easily be removed. They’re connected by magnets to a docking station, and Stubbs said it’s very strong.

The cameras also record high-definition video and have a microphone attached to them, which helps capture audio.

Stubbs said, so far, the cameras have been received positively.

“I have not heard any complaints from the general public about thinking they were being videotaped,” he said, adding that body cameras are pretty well known in today’s society.

He believes it will have an impact on the public’s interactions with law enforcement.

“The people that the deputy is talking to are going to be aware that it’s on,” he said. “So does the deputy. Not that that’s a big problem, but they’re also aware it’s being recorded.”

He added that he believes body cameras will benefit the department into the future.

“I feel time will show the benefit of them, just as time has shown the benefit of in-car video,” he said. “I think it’ll help with the interaction of the public and help with prosecution of cases.”