For the protection of police officers and the public, the ins and outs of RCPD body cams

The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Sunday
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 5:43 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The Rapid City Police Department (RCPD) and Pennington County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) joined much of the nation in 2018 when they implemented the use of body worn cameras.

Over the last few years, police say they’ve greatly increased the amount they have and the uses for them.

“They’re very helpful,” says Evan Harris, RCPD Sergeant, “to have some backup on the street.”

“Backup,” being documented evidence of events that occur, that could potentially be disputed. Instead, Harris explains “we can go back and look at the camera and see exactly what happened.”

Which can be used to resolve citizen complaints against the department, or for evidence in court. Harris says the evidence works “to actually be able to see how a victim, or suspect, are acting at the time of the incident when we arrive. Plays a big role in the court room.”

With increasing public expectations, having records of all of the important moments is crucial.

“Anytime we’re dealing with the public,” Harris says, “we should be activating our body worn camera.”

Harris explains most of an officers equipment is linked together. If the lights go on, the camera does too, and “they also auto trigger if someone else’s camera turns on. They trigger on when the tasers been armed.”

Times when it’s likely criminal activity are at play, so records are handy.

“This is an unbiased witness,” Harris says, “it records exactly what happens.”

Not all moments need a permanent record, like when they’re in the locker room or when an interaction is over.

“To turn them off,” Harris says, “we have to manually turn them off.”

At the end of the day, an officer will take off their body worn camera, place it in a dock, where all of the information that they’ve gathered will be uploaded into the system.

“On any given day,” says Jim Chastain, Police Video and Evidence Technician, “we get anywhere from seven, eight, sometimes 900 videos coming into the system.”

The system is automated to organize and categorize videos, so officers don’t have to dig through case numbers or other documents before uploading.

“The system automatically does it based on who recorded the video,” Chastain says, “when that video started and how that ties with our calls for service.”

People like Chastain are gatekeepers of sorts, fishing through video from the past 48 hours and searching for any anomalies. Which, can take hours depending on the case, “because any system is not 100-percent perfect.”

Say two officers are out on different calls for service at the same time and there’s an overlap, Chastain says “the system has a 50-50 chance of getting it right.”

Chastain makes sure that it chose correctly, because “it takes that last set of eyes to look at the evidence.”

That way when it comes time to share it with a prosecutor, it’s organized, ready and most importantly showcases the reality of what took place.

“There may be a conflict in how an event transpired,” Chastain says, “and it helps give a clear picture of what took place.”

A body worn camera is front facing, and the quality of the picture is downscaled on purpose to reflect what an officer would actually be able to see in any given situation.

Copyright 2022 KEVN. All rights reserved.