A proposed body-worn and vehicle camera system won positive reviews Monday from Clark County sheriff’s deputies taking part in the department’s 30-day test period for the devices.
Deputies Chris Fisk and Lanny Kipp said the Axon equipment is easy to use. In a demonstration for the media, Fisk showed how a quick double-tap on a large round button on the front of the camera starts recording. Cmdr. Todd Barsness said the recording also includes the preceding 30 seconds of footage before it’s activated.
“It actually, surprisingly, was easy to get used to,” Fisk said. “It’s just another thing we have to add to our repertoire of radio, gun, Taser, all that stuff. Once you get out of the car, you just double tap, start it, and then you don’t have to worry about anything after that. They made it dummy proof.”
Three deputies and one sergeant have been wearing the cameras on their daily shifts since April 2. After the test period, Barsness said, administrators will gather information from the different departments within the agency about how successful the trial was before presenting a contract to the Clark County Council.
If the council approves a contract with Axon, he said, he hopes to be able to roll out the body-worn cameras in June and July and the vehicle cameras by early next year. Supply chain issues at Axon mean the vehicle cameras won’t be available immediately.
“It’s a huge step forward,” Barsness said. “Obviously, body-worn cameras isn’t new to law enforcement across the nation. It’s going to be new to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. The deputy sheriff’s guild is just as excited as the administration for that exact reason, the transparency, the ability to not only resolve problems or concerns about calls but also to document calls more thoroughly.”
Barsness said it’s no small task to adjust the workflow throughout the departments in the agency, including the records and evidence departments.
“That’s one of the main benefits of having this trial period is we can start to see, by putting a camera on a deputy, what ripples does that create throughout the law enforcement community here in Clark County and how are those different groups or agencies going to respond and prepare for increased workloads or increased tasks requests?” Barsness said.
When deputies dock their cameras and upload the footage, Barsness said, they use software to tag videos with case numbers and indicate whether the footage has evidentiary value. From there, the recordings sync with the reports deputies write and can be shared with the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Deputies can activate the vehicle cameras manually, or the cameras can begin recording when deputies activate their vehicle’s overhead lights. Barsness said the manual activation can come in handy in instances when deputies might be following a suspected drunk driver and want to capture the person’s driving habits before pulling them over. The equipment also comes with an automatic license plate reader, which Barsness said can read hundreds of license plates in minutes.
Fisk estimated in the time he’s used the reader, it’s identified about 35,000 license plates and alerted him to several reported stolen vehicles and stolen plates.
The Axon cameras are the same used by the Vancouver and Camas police departments. Barsness said they have worked with the other agencies to learn from the hurdles they overcame in implementing a program, but he said the sheriff’s office has some of its own challenges administrators wanted to test out before signing a contract.