DeKalb police ‘excited’ for body cams

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Soon hundreds of DeKalb County police officers will be equipped with body cameras after the DeKalb County board of commissioners approved a resolution to provide the county’s officers with the latest technology.

The body cameras will help officers not only do their job but also promote transparency between the department and community, DeKalb County CEO Lee May said.

May, during the county’s annual DeKalb Neighborhood Summit, said the department’s body cameras are one of many steps the county has made to ensure the police department has everything they need to do their job effectively.

May said the county is working on trying to fix relationships between the community and police force. Equipping officers with body cameras is just one piece to the puzzle, he said.

“I’m really a solutions-oriented person and I think a lot of people are solutions oriented, but this is not an easy fix,” May said. “I shared a statement with [Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Public Safety] Cedric Alexander and I said ‘ironically young Black men and police officers have more in common right now then they probably ever had and that’s fear in one another.’”

In the past few years, the county has approved pay increases for police and other first responders.

The DeKalb County Police Department (DCPD) received a 3 percent cost-of-living increase in 2013. May also said officers received more take-home vehicles.

Police Chief James Conroy said the body cameras should be coming in a few months.

“I’m very excited to get that up and running. We’re hoping once the paperwork goes through we can have them up and running within 60 days. We want to start getting those on the streets so we can have more transparency, from both sides,” Conroy said.

According to the proposal, the body cameras will not exceed $737,724. The purchase will from Utility Associates of Decatur will provide 600 wearable body cameras to outfit the entire uniform division.

According to the police department’s policy on body cameras, officers will notify citizens that they are being recorded, whenever possible. Recordings considered evidence for criminal proceedings will be retained until final disposition of the case. Recordings considered to be valuable for complaints or training purposes will be saved for up to six months.

In January, a grand jury charged DeKalb police officer Robert Olsen with two counts each of murder and violating oath of office. Olsen shot and killed Anthony Hill, a 27-year-old mentally ill Black veteran. Olsen was not equipped with a body camera. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Conroy said the body cameras will be an additional tool to help combat distrust of officers and to hold officers accountable for their actions.

“If you have a community problem or there’s a problem within our community, you can call me directly. I’ve spoken with a series of people and that’s what it needs to be a free flow of communication. If everybody is standing with their arms crossed, nothing will get accomplished,” Conroy said.

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