The Omaha Police Department is getting set to roll out another set of 150 body cameras to uniformed patrol officers.
Last year, the department approved a contract for the department to purchase 460 new cameras, the bill totaling $1,377,383.17 was paid for through a donation from the Omaha Police Department. This new set of body cameras works just like the nearly 200 others, which are activated automatically when cruiser dash cameras are activated.
The department told 6 News there are several ways the cruiser cameras are activated, such as when the officer uses their lights, goes more than 80 miles per hour or if they get into an accident.
When the department was approved the contract last year, Deputy Chief Neumann said the department would gradually move toward full integration, meaning body cameras would be turned on automatically during other situations. “Automatic activation includes any time an officer turns on their emergency lights on a cruiser, any time an officer has their in-car video camera gets turned on, any time an officer pulls out a taser and activates that taser, and then any time an officer pulls out their handgun."
The 150 cameras being deployed this time around are not all equipped to activate automatically when tasers are used, but the department said that will come soon. It requires a certain function for the taser and camera to make it work.
However, Lieutenant Jim Pauley tells 6 News that officers can manually turn body cameras on when they feel it is appropriate to use. “In general, any time the officer thinks it needs to be on, they need to turn it on or any citizen contact, they can turn it on. If it’s going to capture some evidence, you need it to capture some evidence.”
The department also said a signal blast is sent out whenever a cruiser camera is activated, which then forces other cameras within a certain mile radius to turn on and start recording.
Officials say they considered other ways to automatically activate a body camera, such as when an officer takes their gun out of their holster, but Lt. Pauley says it wasn’t feasible. “In the future, it might become more realistic, but it didn’t’ attract us at this point to be feasible to do, like holster activation. That was one of them that was tested, but I think that’s the only one we’re not using out of all the ones that we can use."
There are currently 272 cameras deployed on the streets, and 11 are stored at the department in case a camera breaks. Each camera costs about $100 to maintain.
Videos are then put into a cloud, where they are generally stored for 120 days. If a video could be used as felony or misdemeanor evidence or shows a traffic infraction, it stays in the cloud for up to three years automatically, but if it is used in a court case, it is saved indefinitely. Videos are deleted off the camera once it is uploaded into the cloud, but it can only be deleted off the cloud by an administrator and takes several steps.
The department began rolling out body cameras for officers in May of 2018, and it expects all officers to have cameras by the end of 2019.