Jonesboro Police Department working to outfit officers with body cameras

Jonesboro Police Department working to outfit officers with body cameras

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - In recent months, outfitting police officers with body cameras has become a nationwide push.

For Jonesboro police however, the bulk of the force does not wear body cameras.

Those cameras serve as an unbiased witness to record incidents. Whether it's a traffic stop or deadly shooting, the cameras protect citizens as well as police officers.

"Our officers embrace the concept because they realize it's kept them out of trouble," Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott told Region 8 News.

Chief Elliott said while the department wants body cameras for every officer, they haven't been able to do so yet.

"When you're outfitting 15 to 20 officers, these cameras, they vary anywhere from $400 and up, you know, it's a small outlay," Chief Elliott said.

The Jonesboro Police Department is much larger though.

Chief Elliott said he has 157 sworn officers.

"That adds up," Chief Elliott said.

Chief Elliott said even if he only outfitted his patrol units, that's still about 100 people.

Regardless, they're taking steps to reach that goal.

Elliott said between his budget and grant money, he has $60,000 to spend on body cameras this year.

Right now, the department is in the process of testing which cameras will work best for everyone.

"We're talking taxpayer dollars so I want to get the best for our dollar," Elliott said.

So far, officers have tested two different styles of camera.

Elliott said one camera was very large and cumbersome and the other camera was out of their price range.

"Not only do we have the purchase of the camera, we have to deal with storage of the video," Chief Elliott said. "Some of these systems come in and they'll sell you a package deal, you can store the video on the cloud, but it's going to cost you this."

For instance, one system JPD looked at would cost $70,000 a year for video storage.

Chief Elliott said at least three more styles of camera are on their way to JPD for testing. Elliott said he will have officers from different shifts wear the cameras for about a month and write a report on the pros and cons of that particular camera.

However, even when a camera is chosen, due to budget constraints, every officer likely can't be outfitted overnight.

"It just all depends on the final product we select on how many units we can start out with this year," Chief Elliott said. "We'll take the money and spend it as far as we can, we'll budget for more next year and we'll continue on until we get everybody outfitted."

Though there are budget constraints, Chief Elliott said the City of Jonesboro supports the project to outfit officers with body cameras.

"I think when we do find something that we want, that if we don't have all the funds that we need, I think we can approach the city to amend the budget to complete the purchase," Elliott said.

As for other grants available for body cameras, the Department of Justice is expected to announce a new grant soon.

Grants Coordinator for the City of Jonesboro Heather Clements told Region 8 News that the grant will be very competitive, as departments nationwide will want to apply for it.

Clements said Jonesboro will apply for that grant once it's announced.

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