Casper City Council considers police body cams - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Casper City Council considers police body cams

Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters (foreground) sits next to City Manager Carter Napier. (Trevor T. Trujillo, Oil City)

Casper City Council heard a pitch from Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters, addressing what the Chief called a “bonafide need” for police body cameras.

McPheeters addressed city council during a work session, on Tuesday March 27th.

Currently the Casper Police Department utilizes a COBAN in-car camera system, and McPheeters says that the system is aging and in need of replacement. “For quite sometime we have become accustomed to having in-car videos. Our COBAN system is now becoming quite dated as technology, and we’re showing it’s beginning to fail our needs on a routine basis.”

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The system that McPheeters is asking City Council to consider funding would be one where cameras are worn on the police officer’s person, and the Chief says that the use of such systems is becoming “the norm” across the nation, rather than the exception.

McPheeters said that at his previous job, they’ve been using in-car camera systems for nearly 20 years, and have been using body-cameras for nearly ten.

“The combination of those two things has proven invaluable,” McPheeters said.

McPheeters served, most recently, as the Deputy Chief for the City of Farmington, New Mexico Police Department, before his appointment to his current position in Casper, in early December of 2017.

According to the chief, the proposal would update the in-car cameras and then would also integrate them with the body camera system, as well as video systems in interrogation and interview rooms. Each officer that regularly works patrol would be assigned a body cam.

During the pitch, the council was given a rough estimate of “a million dollars, plus” for the new system. McPheeters saying that the technology did come with a price, and would come with an eventual expiration date. He did go on to explain, however, that the number was just an estimate.

“We don’t want to get involved in the negotiations for the purchasing of products, until I have approval from this body,” McPheeters said.

The million dollar estimate would cover the system purchase and use over the course of five years. During that five years, the program would cover all repairs and replacements needed in the system.

Casper’s newest City Council member, and former Natrona County Circuit Court Judge, Mike Huber said that he supports the idea, however expressed concern on the possibility of over-reliance on the video footage.

“One of my worries is that officers start to rely on these technologies, instead of relying on their own powers of observation,” Huber said. “That’s worrisome for a couple of reasons. One, if the technology fails, and if the officer is not routinely in the habit making and remembering those observations.”

McPheeters responded to Huber’s concerns by saying that he believes the department to be one on a professional level, where the videos would be available for use if needed, but that they wouldn’t be relied upon. The chief pointing out that currently officers are asked to fill out incident paperwork and other reports without reviewing video footage.

Casper City Council member, and practicing local attorney, Dallas Laird also voiced support of the proposal.

“I’m for it for one big reason,” Laird said. “Statutorily we’re entrusted as a city council, with providing for the safety of our constituents. I think this adds to their safety tremendously.”

Councilperson Chris Walsh, a former Chief of Police for the Casper Police Department, also supported the measure, echoing McPheeter’s concerns over the age of the current in-car system.

“Think of a computer or a phone that’s ten years old,” Walsh said.

The proposal received support from all of the members of City Council that were present, in an unofficial straw poll.

Council members Jesse Morgan, Charlie Powell, and Bob Hopkins were absent from the work session.