El Paso County deputies will add cameras to their uniforms

By: Chhun Sun
February 28, 2016 Updated: February 28, 2016 at 3:45 pm
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El Paso County Sheriff's deputy Lora Lowry is one of two deputies who have been assigned this month to be part of a pilot body-worn camera program.

As she gets dressed for work, El Paso County Sheriff's deputy Lora Lowry has to attach a camera to her uniform - something she didn't do until the beginning of February.

That doesn't mean her priorities have shifted.

"Now I just have an extra step," Lowry said.

She's one of two deputies who have been assigned this month to be part of the Sheriff's Office's pilot body-worn camera program. Sometime after June, between 150-160 sergeants and deputies will be equipped with a technology that's becoming almost standard across the country, said Sheriff's Office bureau chief Brad Shannon.

"We want to be an agency that's accountable and we also want to be transparent," he said. "Those are the two main reasons I think law enforcement, as a general rule, is trending toward body cameras. We see a benefit to deploying cameras."

The Sheriff's Office likely won't implement the cameras until after the Colorado Springs Police Department begin to outfit its officers with the equipment. Police Cmdr. Pat Rigdon said that the department might make an announcement about picking a vendor in two weeks. When that happens, it marks a milestone in an effort that started in late 2013.

According to Rigdon, the department's plan is to have between 50-100 officers wear body-worn cameras by April. Six months later, nearly 500 officers are expected to have the cameras.

The Sheriff's Office plans on following what the Police Department does with its body-worn camera program. That could potentially save the agency money and hundreds of hours on such steps as writing proposals and conducting evaluations, said Shannon.

The Police Department received a $600,000 grant from the federal Department of Justice to assist in purchasing 500 cameras, which the law enforcement agency had to match to cover the cost of the program for the first two years.

Shannon said the Sheriff's Office has not calculated the cost of its cameras.

The Sheriff's Office has looked at 10 body-worn camera vendors. The one Lowry wears for her shifts is by utility.com. This type has a slot integrated into the uniform. It also is connected to the deputy's car. For example, if Lowry actives her siren, the camera turns itself on. If she is running or knocked down, the camera automatically activates.

How does her patrol change with the camera?

"For me, it doesn't change a lot," said Lowry, a 5-year law enforcement veteran.. "I am a fair and professional person. I take my job seriously. I wouldn't jeopardize that on purpose... It's kind of convenient when someone gets amped about a situation or their behavior has escalated and they don't need to be, you can tell them, 'Hey, you're being recorded right now.' It can deescalate their behavior."

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