South Bend police getting body camera upgrades after OIS

Following the shooting, officers asked the department for more ways for their cameras to start recording automatically


By Lincoln Wright
South Bend Tribune, Ind.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The South Bend Police Department is updating its body camera technology after a fatal police shooting last month in which the officer involved did not activate his body camera.

Previously, officers’ body cameras activated automatically when the light bar on their police vehicle was turned on or if the vehicle reached a certain speed. The cameras could also be manually activated, which Sgt. Ryan O’Neil did not do when he fatally shot Eric Logan on June 16 in a downtown parking lot.

In this July 12, 2019 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaigns at the Revolution Taproom & Grill, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa File)
In this July 12, 2019 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaigns at the Revolution Taproom & Grill, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa File)

Now, a change has been instituted in which body cameras are also automatically activated when a squad car door is opened. And soon, technology will be added to activate the cameras when an officer’s gun is drawn from his or her holster. The holster sensors are being provided to the department at no cost by BodyWorn, the company that manufactures the cameras.

BodyWorn said in a statement that the holster sensor technology was not available when South Bend initially bought the cameras last year for $1.5 million. The new sensors will be equipped in the next 60 to 90 days.

Following the shooting, officers asked the department for more ways for their cameras to start recording automatically, said Ken Garcia, a department spokesman. In high-stress situations, Garcia said, officers don’t want to worry about having to remember to turn their camera on.

“They wanted something so they could focus on their job,” Garcia said.

O’Neill shot Logan after responding to reports of car break-ins. Authorities have said Logan approached O’Neill with a fixed-blade knife and ignored repeated orders to drop it. The knife had been taken from a car in the area, authorities have said.

O’Neill did not have his body camera turned on at the time of the shooting.

The shooting has drawn national media coverage because of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s run for president. It has also sparked several protests, calls for police reform, questions about the city’s body camera and use-of-force policies, and new attention to the city’s difficulty in recruiting African-American police officers.

Following the shooting, the city issued a new general order that “officers should activate their body cameras during all work-related interactions with civilians.”

“This step is intended to confirm community expectations that police encounters with civilians will be recorded,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

Previously, the department’s policy called for officers to “activate the recorder during all enforcement stops and field interview situations, and any other time the (officer) reasonably believes that a recording of an on-duty contact may be useful.”

O’Neill resigned from the department earlier this week. In a news release, the FOP attributed the resignation to stress, national media attention, a lawsuit filed by Logan’s family and “hateful things said on social media.”

A special prosecutor is now reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

In general, the Fraternal Order of Police support body cameras and ways for them to activate automatically, local president Harvey Mills said in a statement.

"Generally, many FOP members support technology that activates body cameras instead of requiring an officer to remember to do it manually in a potentially deadly situation. However, any department policy on body cameras has to address privacy concerns of both officers and private citizens," Mills said in his statement.

©2019 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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