• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Every Versailles police officer to wear body-cam

SGT. ANTHONY CONNER was one of the first officers with the Versailles Police Department to start wearing a body- worn camera about two years ago. As early as this week, every officer will wear a body-cam. Conner’s camera is attached to his pocket. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Every patrol officer will soon be wearing body-worn cameras, according to Versailles Police Chief James Fugate. He said the department’s newest body-cams will be issued to officers – possibly as early as this week – after a computer is upgraded to store additional footage from nine or 10 more cameras.

Fugate said his department started purchasing body-cams for patrol officers about two years ago and now has 40 cameras at a cost of about $500 apiece.

A department policy outlines when officers must turn on their body-cams. Examples include whenever someone has been arrested or is being transported in a cruiser, during traffic stops or domestic complaint calls, and any time an officer encounters someone who’s angry or disorderly, said Fugate.

“I think, and we think, they’re important for a number of reasons,” he said of body-cams. “One, it helps us assure that our officers are treating people in the way that we expect them to. At the same time, it protects officers from frivolous complaints.”

Body-cameras can influence and change behavior, and may provide visual and audio evidence that disproves allegations against an officer, as happened after a recent complaint, said Fugate.

“For us to do the investigations administratively,” said VPD Assistant Chief Mike Murray, who succeeds a retiring Fugate as chief in September, “it saves so much time going to that footage.” He said a recording shows both sides of an incident.

“If they allege something happened,” he added, “either it did or it didn’t. It’s pretty clear.”

Before local officers were equipped with body-worn cameras, Murray said they had in-car cameras to record encounters with drivers suspected of DUI, for example. But body-cams are much more effective because they record much closer, said Fugate.

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