Months to go before El Paso County deputies begin wearing cameras

March 7, 2017 Updated: March 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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Officer Michael Good demonstrates how to place the new CSPD body-worn cameras in his vest at the Police Operation Center on Tuesday, September 20, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is moving forward in its plan to equip deputies with body-worn cameras, but the program probably won't be in full swing for another six months.

At a Tuesday meeting, the Board of County Commissioners approved $303,012 to purchase 150 cameras for the agency. Grants from the U.S. Department of Justice probably will account for more than half of the sum, with about $132,300 coming from the county's general fund.

The Sheriff's Office plans to issue about 38 of the cameras in July and equip remaining deputies roughly 45 days later, said Brad Shannon, chief of the Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Bureau. The agency had originally intended to begin distributing cameras in early 2017, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman told The Gazette in September.

Shannon attributed to the program's delayed start date to another major project that the Sheriff's Office is working on: integrating its record-management system with systems used by Colorado Springs and Fountain police, making all three agencies' files available to one another.

When the body-worn camera program is fully implemented, all full-time deputies working for the bureau, including 95 patrol sergeants and officers belonging to special units such as K9 and SWAT, will have the devices. The cameras, manufactured by Georgia-based technology company Utility, Inc., are smartphones that slip into the front of specially fitted uniforms.

In addition to startup costs, the body camera program will cost the agency about $150,000 annually - money that will be used to buy software updates and additional storage space on the cloud-based computing system that will be used to save video footage.

Last spring, two Sheriff's Office deputies were given body cameras for a pilot program that lasted several weeks.

The Colorado Springs Police Department has also encountered delays in equipping all 475 of its officers with body cameras. The department's pilot program launched in the fall, about six months after it was slated to begin, when 65 officers from the Gold Hill Division received body cameras. The rest of the department's officers were supposed to receive cameras in December. But Lt. Howard Black, a spokesman for Colorado Springs police, said Tuesday that 125 officers still did not have the devices. That number is expected to drop to about 47 officers at the end of March, Black said.

The department has encountered a variety of obstacles, including ordering uniforms tailored for use of the cameras and technical issues related to the amount of data needed for the camera system, which requires installing routers in police vehicles.

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The Gazette's Chhun Sun contributed to the reporting of this article.

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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