SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Police Department received a long-awaited grant for body cameras in late September, but it will take a bit longer before citizens start seeing the devices on officers around town.
Lt. Travis Koltiska said SPD is currently in the policy development stage right now.
A group of policy makers will look to model those developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as regional police departments currently utilizing body cameras such as Gillette, which Koltiska said is comparable to Sheridan.
Gillette Police Department Chief Jim Hloucal said his department’s policy regarding body cameras went into effect Dec. 1, 2016. It took several months to craft the perfect policy that ensured both privacy of citizens and accountability of his officers.
“I think we’ve found that middle ground,” Hloucal said.
Hloucal, like Koltiska, looked at examples provided by the IACP to create GPD’s policy.
At the time Gillette PD was incorporating the body cameras into the department, no other Wyoming police department had established a policy regarding the issue and the Wyoming Legislature had yet to pass Senate File 32 that addresses peace officer recordings. Gov. Matt Mead signed the bill into law in March 2017. The law limits access to the recordings to law enforcement personnel or public agencies in relation to court orders. The law also allows the custodian to allow access to the person in interest, if a complaint is made or in the interest of public safety.
Overall, Hloucal said the department has seen mostly positive reactions from the community regarding the added video equipment.
“They certainly provide a very good tool for public confidence in monitoring police activity and showing our interactions with the public, but there’s also on the other side a huge privacy concern for citizens in that we’re now taking video and audio recordings inside of settings that would traditionally be considered private,” Hloucal said.
No major complaints have been received by the department so far in their use of body cameras. The only setbacks the department experienced are minor glitches in not turning on before an incident begins, typical technological malfunctions and normal wear and tear of equipment.
Koltiska and the department, which held its first policy-making meeting Thursday, is looking to move forward as quickly as possible. The grant allows 180 days for policy creation, but Koltiska said by no means will the department take that long.
After SPD establishes the policy, Lt. Tom Ringley and Koltiska, who will serve as points of contact, and the financial point of contact Jenifer Shassetz, will undergo both in-person and online trainings. Following training, the 28 body cameras will then be implemented with the department’s patrol officers. The grant allows two years for the department to establish the new technology, but Koltiska plans to get the equipment in use much sooner.