Council approves funding for Iowa City Police to use body camera - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Council approves funding for Iowa City Police to use body cameras

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The Iowa City Council voted unanimously to approve funding for Iowa City Police officers to get 84 body-mounted cameras, during Tuesday's regular council meeting. 

The issue was addressed after a video surfaced online showing Iowa City Police breaking up a house party, but it's since gotten a lot of attention and criticism saying the actions of officers were wrong.

"They definitely help to record evidentiary issues, statements, officers actions," said Officer David Schwindt with the Iowa City Police Department. "These cameras are not going to be that perfect solution."

Officers' actions are being questioned after Robert Smith, the man behind the video, posted it online.

Sean Curtin, the director of Free Johnson County and creator of the ICPDwatch campaign, initiated after the video surfaced, spoke on behalf of Smith, who had an unexpected emergency.

Curtin addressed the council not to approve the use of body cameras.

"One of the officers was wearing a body camera that night, but it didn't retrain the officer from attempted to assault Mr. Smith," said Curtin.

While the use of body cameras was up for discussion at Tuesday's council meeting in Iowa City, but it's been on the minds of the police department for more than a year.

The department currently has 11 body cameras.

"Great tool, but they are not the holy grail of officer accountability," said Schwindt. "I'm not aware of a single body camera video that has implicated an officer, they've always exonerated an officers"

The body cameras will be officer-controlled meaning in a rapidly-evolving situation an officer could forget to activate the camera.

That sparked reservations from the public and a few council members.

However, the the police chief is expected to attend a conference in October to see if there's new technology so they won't be officer-controlled.

"We want to be able to document these instances. We strive for and expect nothing but professional behavior from our officers." said Schwindt.

The council approved funding for the police department to purchase 84 body cameras, for each 82 sworn officers in the department.

The total project cost is appropriately $211,000 and that exceeds the City Manager's spending authority of $150,000, requiring the council's approval. The costs includes $163,000 for the body-worn camera system, $38,000 for a storage solution, and $10,000 for preparation of the space.

"Obviously the number one goal is that something like this wont happen again," said Curtin. "Procedures, values and personnel more so than technology."

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