The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office began using body cameras this week, with the last round of the 99 new cameras distributed to deputies Thursday afternoon.
A private donor “who wishes to remain anonymous” paid about $30,000 to supply patrol deputies with the technology, said Maj. Ryan Turner, Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
“We’re looking at (the body camera system) more as evidence to assist in the case on an arrest,” Turner said.
The body cameras are being distributed to deputies at a time when the Sheriff’s Office is under scrutiny for some of its past actions when making arrests.
The law enforcement agency is under federal investigation in the March 2014 shooting death of Victor White III while he was in the back of a patrol car, along with a September 2013 incident in which a deputy was captured on video kicking and clubbing a handcuffed man after the Sugar Cane Festival.
Turner said the body cameras will be used “to record and document any ongoing investigations from the deputies on call.”
Although the 99 cameras aren’t enough to supply each of the 321 sworn deputies with an individually assigned camera, the number is sufficient to outfit all 14 deputies who work during each of the four daily patrol shifts, Turner said.
Deputies will be required to activate the camera upon the start of every investigation and to upload the footage into a server once the investigation is complete, Turner said.
At this point, it’s unclear how the policy will be enforced. A deputy can turn the camera on — and off — with a wireless remote, Turner said.
A use and storage policy is “something we’re discussing right now,” Turner said.
The system is separate from the agency’s dashboard camera system, the footage of which is stored permanently onto a data disc rather than uploaded to a server, Turner said.
The Sheriff’s Office now falls in line with other area agencies that use wearable camera systems, including the Scott, Crowley and Opelousas police departments and the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Both the Lafayette Police Department and Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office in late 2014 were exploring wearable camera options for their officers and deputies, although neither has confirmed if and when a system would be purchased.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.