The Olive Branch Police Department recently received a big boost in its efforts to equip its patrol officers with body cameras. It’s been an item the police department has been looking into for a number of years.
Thursday, May 27, on what would have been the 90th birthday of the late car dealership owner and humanitarian Homer Skelton, his family presented the police department with a check, reportedly in the neighborhood of $65,000, to be used by the department to help cover the costs of body cameras for the city’s patrol officers.
Olive Branch would become the second police department in DeSoto County to move toward the recording equipment, after they have already been approved for law enforcement officers in Southaven.
Deputy Chief of Administration Bill Cox said Thursday morning the body cameras have not been purchased and there is not a definitive date for purchase, “but it is in the process,” he said. “It will be in the near future. We want to be sure we are making the right purchase but we do have the desire to get this going as quickly as possible.”
When they are acquired, policy is what is going to govern its use, Cox said, both department policy and recommendations from the accreditation agencies the department subscribes to.
“We have reviewed policy recommendations concerning the use of body cameras, the operation of body cameras, when they should be on or when they should be off,” Cox said. “We will be instituting a policy based upon the recommendations of the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police). Our policies will reflect the finding of the IACP and other bodies that have researched the issue.”
Cox said most police officers who wear body cameras are comfortable with them on, because they provide an added proof that they are doing their work in the manner they are required to do.
“A body camera will have the documentation of officers following the correct policy,” Cox pointed out. “That body camera serves as an additional proof that we as a CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) certified agency follow the policies and procedures that we are expected to follow.”
When things happen, there’s always a push from segments of the public and some media to see the video of what did transpire . Body camera video may also be used as evidence in a legal matter, in some cases. Cox said there will also be direction set forth beforehand about what can and what cannot be provided.
“Any release of video will be governed by policy, so that will be addressed as to under what circumstances video will be released,” Cox said.
The goal, Cox said, is to equip each patrol officer on the force with the equipment. The Homer Skelton family donation will certainly go a long way toward accomplishing that.
“What we are wanting to do is make sure our patrol officers have them,” Cox stressed.