IUPD officers equipped with body-worn cameras on 3 campuses

As part of Indiana University Police Department's commitment to professionalism, progressive policies and student safety, officers at three campuses have been equipped with body-worn cameras.

Closeup of a police officer's body-worn cameraView print quality image
Indiana University Police Department officers at Bloomington, IUPUI and IU Northwest have started using body-worn cameras. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

Such cameras support transparency within police departments amid police actions that have caught the public spotlight, and that have fueled social justice movements, said Benjamin Hunter, IU associate vice president for public safety and institutional assurance and superintendent for public safety.

Body-worn cameras, along with new in-car cameras, are among the steps IUPD is taking to strengthen its assistance to and relationship with the students, staff, faculty and communities it serves. Some initiatives are the result of a commission's report and recommendations after reviewing IUPD's training and de-escalation policies.

Among IUPD's initiatives are the Engagement and Inclusion Officer Program and the Police Chief Community Advisory Board. The board is a resource and open line of communication between an IUPD campus and staff, faculty, students and community. It provides an opportunity for listening to and acting on public safety concerns, and providing input on programs intended to improve campus safety.

The Engagement and Inclusion Officer Program provides outreach and assistance to all members of the campus community by creating an engaging and inclusive community. Engagement and inclusion officers serve as active partners in improving a campus climate.

Nearly 100 officers between the Bloomington, IUPUI and IU Northwest IUPD divisions received training last week with body-worn cameras and have started using the technology.

Hunter said that communities today expect police to use body-worn and in-car cameras.

"The ultimate goal is to always be transparent, and this is another step in providing that," he said.

Body-worn cameras aid in evidence collection and help provide clarity when an officer is accused of misconduct, Hunter added.

The campus police chiefs said they appreciate the investment the university is making. Such technology is considered an industry best standard, the chiefs said.

"As a police officer, I like having cameras in the car or on the person for transparency, because then it's hard to dispute what happened in an encounter," IUPD-IUPUI Chief Doug Johnson said.

Transparency helps build trust with a community, Johnson added, and when officers have cameras on them or in their cars, it makes them aware of possibly saying or doing anything that could be considered inappropriate.

Knowing what happened in an incident, whether an officer was at fault or not, is important so that any police wrongdoing can be addressed, IUPD-Northwest Chief Monte Davis said.

There can be zero tolerance for abuse of power or corruption, he added.

"As a department, we want to make sure we maintain legitimacy," Davis said.

IUPD-Bloomington Chief Jill Lees said the officers in her division are happy to have the body-worn cameras and new in-car cameras because the technology has many features that will benefit them greatly.

Lees said she likes that the cameras provide real-time locations of officers and can provide real-time video during incidents.

"I just think this is an essential and vital piece of technology that all departments should have," Lees said.

Indiana University entered into a five-year contract with Utility to equip nearly 100 officers with body-worn cameras, install new camera systems in 23 police cars and equip four motorcycles for the camera technology.

Hunter presented the new technology and details of IUPD's other initiatives to the Indiana University Board of Trustees at their meeting Aug. 13.

A cellphone using the Android platform acts as the body-worn camera. It fits securely into a case that is inserted into a zippered pocket and snaps to the officer's uniform. A hole in the pocket allows the camera to record images unobscured.

Utility's multiplatform technology fit IUPD's needs the best, Hunter said, and the three campuses pooled financial resources from their budgets to pay for the equipment.

IUPD's Bloomington, IUPUI and Northwest divisions were chosen as the initial recipients because they receive the most calls for service, Hunter said.

"The ultimate goal is to get this technology for all the departments," Hunter added.