JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Police Chief Ed Densmore has selected a vendor to bring body-worn cameras to law enforcement officers in Johns Creek.
Densmore has asked the City Council to approve a contract that would bring body cameras, in-car cameras, interview room cameras and the database that stores the footage under one vendor, Axon Enterprise.
“I wanted one system across the board for ease of use, maintaince, everything,” Densmore said. “Axon was able to come forward and provide that.”
Axon is also the manufacturer of Tasers, and its body cameras are designed to begin recording whenever an officer takes out his or her Taser.
“When that Taser is drawn from the holster it’s going to activate the body camera,” Densmore said. “[Axon] is the only one out there that will do that. The Taser is probably our number one less lethal device that we go to.”
The cameras also begin recording if they are within a certain distance of other cameras that are recording, if nearby police vehicle lights are turned on or if the officer manually turns the camera on.
When the camera begins actively recording, the last thirty seconds of footage can be saved. The camera only stops recording if the officer deliberately pushes a button for five seconds.
Densmore said he has spent three years researching body camera devices before he found a product he was confident in.
“When I looked at everything across the field this was by far the leading candidate,” he said.
While body cameras have been implemented across the country to increase police accountability and reduce officer complaints, Densmore said the main appeal of body cameras to him is providing evidence for investigators and courts and creating training opportunities for officers.
“In this day and age, everything is on video,” Densmore said. “So why wouldn’t we capture what happened from the officer’s standpoint rather than a 15-second clip from someone standing on the side of the road with their cell phone?”
The contract with Axon exceeds the amount allocated for body cameras in the 2019 budget by $22,000, but by bundling various police equipment the contract renders other budgetary spending obsolete and has the potential to save the city money in the long run.
City Council members responded positively to Densmore’s request at their last work session June 17 and will have an opportunity to approve the five-year contract July 8.
Councilman Steve Broadbent raised a question about privacy, asking what if police were to go onto private property and the business or homeowner asked them to turn the camera off. Densmore said if the police were there on a call it would no longer be a private matter.
Alpharetta, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Gwinnett and Forsyth already have body-worn cameras on at least some law enforcement officers. Several of the surrounding agencies use Axon, Densmore said, which will facilitate coordination between departments.