Body cameras will soon be in use by the Ellensburg Police Department.
“We want the community to know the intent behind it is officer safety and accountability,” EPD Captain Dan Hansberry said. “Our officers are not afraid of accountability and we are not afraid of being held accountable, this is one more tool to do that. It’s also a huge tool for officer safety. What’s happening out there is being recorded, and I think it’s going to be a good thing.”
Approval to purchase the cameras was given by the Ellensburg City Council at a public meeting Monday night. Funds for the purchase were previously made available by the council in the 2021/2022 biennial budget.
Along with 40 body cameras, the city purchased eight new in-car cameras. The cameras will be able to sync together to get two angles of a situation. The body cameras will record audio, which will also sync with the camera in the vehicle. Each body camera will also be assigned to a specific officer.
Hansberry said the department has been in favor of getting body cameras for at least five years. What kept the department from getting cameras was the privacy laws involved in police body cameras.
Hansberry said they requested and received funding for redaction software, which will be used to protect the privacy of citizens being recorded. The department also needed to fill a position of someone to physically go through the footage and redact things that could violate the privacy of citizens.
“If you went into someone’s private residence and they were the victim of a crime, there were a lot of questions out there for if the victim didn’t want to be filmed, could the officers turn off the body cams or not,” Hansberry said.
Legislation passed over the last two to three years has cleared up many of these questions, and the EPD now has the funds to purchase the cameras.
The cost for the camera order is $149,265. The cameras will now need to be shipped and connected to the department. Although Hansberry could not give an exact date for when the cameras will be in use, he hopes everything will be ready in four to six weeks.