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Clarksville Police discuss body-worn camera program

 

City schedules second forum in North Clarksville

City of Clarksville - Clarksville, TNClarksville, TN – City of Clarksville officials offered Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 an overview of the body-worn camera program being implemented in Clarksville.

Clarksville Police Chief Al Ansley explained at a public meeting at the Wilma Rudolph Event Center that body-worn cameras are tools designed to improve the quality of law enforcement and service to the community.

 Clarksville Police Chief Al Ansley spoke at a public meeting Tuesday night about the body-worn camera program being implemented in Clarksville.


Clarksville Police Chief Al Ansley spoke at a public meeting Tuesday night about the body-worn camera program being implemented in Clarksville.

Body-worn cameras will help officers produce more accurate reports and better evidence, which will make law enforcement more efficient, while supporting transparency and building public trust, Ansley said.

“Body-worn cameras are a new technological tool with promise to be helpful, but they are just that, a tool, and not a panacea or the answer to every problem,” he said.

The city’s early goals are engaging the community in the program, creating a body-worn camera policy, evaluating and choosing the necessary equipment, training officers, and then deploying the cameras.

A second public forum on the topic has been scheduled for 6:00pm-7:30pm Thursday, December 14th, 2017 at Greater Missionary Baptist Church, 450 Ringgold Road, Clarksville.

As for the timeline, Ansley said policy development is expected to be completed by April 2018, with training development in June, request for proposals by August, and equipment installation in December 2018. After officers are trained, the cameras will be rolled out, most likely in early 2019.

A group of leaders, from left, Councilwoman Deanna McLaughlin, Grants Analyst Debbie Smith, Tennessee ACLU Director Hedy Weinberg, Clarkville Mayor Kim McMillan and Councilwoman Valerie Guzman listen Tuesday to a Clarksville Police presentation on body-worn cameras.

A group of leaders, from left, Councilwoman Deanna McLaughlin, Grants Analyst Debbie Smith, Tennessee ACLU Director Hedy Weinberg, Clarkville Mayor Kim McMillan and Councilwoman Valerie Guzman listen Tuesday to a Clarksville Police presentation on body-worn cameras.

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan said the City wants to make sure citizens are engaged in shaping the policy and informed on what to expect when the cameras begin to be used in Clarksville.

“We are taking this seriously, and proceeding in stages,” Mayor McMillan said. “We intend to get it right. We urge citizens to turn out for the December 14th meeting at Greater Missionary Baptist to learn about this important program.”

Ansley said CPD has used in-car cameras for several years, so officers and staff already have some experience with related equipment and the video evidence it produces.

Ansley discussed questions about the program gathered in a recent online survey of citizens, who identified privacy issues as a major concern.

“We will take steps not to record people in their private lives,” Ansley said. “We do want to record any interaction between officers and citizens that is part of law enforcement activity, especially a traffic stop, an arrest or a response to a call for service,” Ansley said.

Officers are unlikely to have the cameras on during public events, like festivals, unless they are making an arrest or a fight breaks out, Ansley said. The policy also will outline how officers should activate and deactivate the cameras when dealing with crime victims, or when entering businesses and residences for routine matters.

Ansley said an internal survey of CPD officers indicated more than 85 percent are in favor of using body-worn cameras. Research has shown cameras can encourage better behavior by police officers and the people they deal with during traffic stops and crime investigations.

Ansley said the emerging policy will not allow officers to edit or erase footage, and it will proscribe how long to keep the video; probably 396 days or until a case has run its course through the courts, or 90 days if it is not evidence. The policy also will determine who can access the video, and when.

“Of course, much of the policy will be dictated by the rules already established in the Tennessee Open Records Law,” Ansley said.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU of Tennessee, attended Tuesday’s forum and said she was encouraged by the effort the City and CPD are putting into the program.

“This is serious business and takes a lot of time,” she said. “The City is approaching this with the right amount of seriousness.”

She said the ACLU has been involved in body-camera policies for several years, in response to police-involved shootings in other states.

She said while the cameras are “only a tool,” they can add “accountability and transparency” to what is happening within a department.

The ACLU of Tennessee has drafted its own set of recommended policies and procedures that it has shared with police departments.


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