TUPD plans to use body cameras while on duty

Brandi Doyal, Print News Editor

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Accusations of police brutality, such as in Ferguson, Missouri, have sparked a national movement and response from civilians in the last year to hold police departments accountable. As a result, several police departments across the country have recently begun wearing body cameras, and Tulane University Police Department is following suit. 

TUPD will begin using police body cameras by the end of the month.

TUPD Superintendent Jon Barnwell said TUPD was considering purchasing body cameras long before there was any type of national conversation, though. TUPD made the decision to start using body cameras more than a year ago and informed Undergraduate Student Government at the end of last semester that it had settled on a product and is ready for implementation.

Barnwell said he believes the addition of the body cameras will strengthen TUPD as a whole. 

“The reason for implementation is to provide greater transparency on behalf of the department and have a tool to assist with policy complaints and follow up on citizen complaints,” Barnwell said.

Freshman Barbie Wilkie said she supports any initiative to make Tulane a safer space. 

“I support any measure that could potentially strengthen our campus security,” Wilkie said. 

The Digital Ally model TUPD has chosen will have audio capabilities, and Barnwell said TUPD hopes the system will be operational by the end of the month.

“Part of the reason for the length of time is the body [cameras] will integrate and work in conjunction with our video recording systems in our patrol cars,” Barnwell said.

In 2014 the Police Executive Research Forum said the average cost agencies spend on cameras range from $120 to $2,000. 

Sophomore Jack Cooney said he was skeptical about TUPD’s purchase of the body cameras.

“[The body cameras] can’t be a bad thing,” Cooney said. “I don’t know if it is really worth the cost or the trouble, though. TUPD is not known for malpractice or abuse.”

Many police stations that have begun using police body cameras include the footage in public record requests.

A 2014 report released by the U.S. Department of Justice titled “Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program” more clearly defines what the recommended access to public is for the footage recorded.

“Agencies should have clear and consistent protocols for releasing recorded data externally to the public and the news media,” the report states. “Each agency’s policy must be in compliance with the state’s public disclosure laws. [The Police Executive Research Forum] generally recommends a broad disclosure policy to promote agency transparency and accountability.”

Barnwell said the cameras are primarily for TUPD use, but public record requests will be processed by the university.

“[The body cameras] are primarily for internal use,” Barnwell said. “Any request for video via public record would have to go through our Office of General Counsel prior to release.”