KINGSTON – Many law enforcement agencies across East Tennessee are starting to wear body cameras as part of the uniform.
In Roane County, they aren’t apart of the uniform, but some officers have taken matters into their own hands by purchasing a body camera.
Deputies are equipped with a video camera in their patrol car.
“I think with technology where it is, it offers that extra accessory to what we do as far as law enforcement and having in car video,” said police chief Tim Phillips.
Before officers can wear body cameras on their uniform, there are a few factors that should be considered.
“We don’t have a police set in place for body cameras,” said Phillips. “We don’t have anything in regards to the retention of the video or who owns the video.”
There are also questions raised on whether or not it’s constitutional if an officer wears a body camera in a person’s home.
“We want to make sure that we have good clarification on where we stand on that,” he said. “We certainly don’t want to infringe on anybody’s constitutional rights.”
For those reasons, Phillips said officers should not wear the body cameras; but he’s not against them.
“Unfortunately there has been officers that have been killed in the line of duty out on traffic stops and things like that,” he said. “The video has helped capture individuals.”
Kingston resident, Gary Johnson, agrees.
“I think it’s a great idea for sure,” he said. “You can’t hide it. The video speaks for itself. There’s been a lot of instances where the video has saved people’s lives.”
The next hurdle for Roane County deputies is to find funding.
“Technology is good, but with technology comes a hefty price tag,” said Phillips.
There has not been an official release date for body cameras for the Roane County Sheriff’s Office. Phillips is also looking at a new system that pairs body cameras with in-car cameras.
A bill introduced in the state House requires all officers to wear body camera, if money from grants, donations or federal government is provided to the department.
This bill comes after a national call for more transparency in police interactions with the public following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri.
At the national level, President Barack Obama has pledged more than $260 million to match state funds and outfit 50,000 officers with body cameras.
The move would require congressional approval.
If the Tennessee version passes both chambers and is signed by the governor, it would take effect on January 1, 2016.