The Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office has outfitted 31 patrol deputies and detectives with Taser Axon body cameras to record their interactions with the public.
Deputies and detectives began wearing the cameras, which are about half the size of a cellphone, on their chests Monday after completing required training over the past two weeks.
“We’ve been studying it for a while, and we pulled the trigger,” Sheriff Mike Waguespack said Tuesday.
He said he decided to outfit his deputies and detectives to maintain officer accountability and better deal with community complaints.
“I’m not buying them to police my force but to police the complaints. This is more protective of these deputies,” he said.
Waguespack signed a five-year professional services agreement with Taser International.
Images from the cameras, which can hold nine hours of video and have 12-hour batteries, are automatically uploaded and archived into Taser’s cloud-based system.
Under a Sheriff’s Office policy, the cameras will be rolling whenever an officer stops a vehicle, responds to a domestic violence call, makes a drug bust, interacts with the public or conducts other law enforcement activities.
Waguespack said body camera recordings also would extend to jailhouse interviews of witnesses and suspects, though the parish jail already has its own recording system.
The deputies will be able to turn the cameras on manually. But the cameras continuously record in 30-second segments even while they are technically off. When a deputy or detective does turn a body camera on, it will pick up the prior 30 seconds of action.
Deputies cannot edit or delete footage manually but can review it through a Bluetooth connection, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The first year of the agreement with Taser cost Waguespack’s office $16,743.
He said he liked the agreement with the company because Taser stores the videos — which means his office avoids the costs of servers and personnel to store the data — while the system creates an audit trail any time the videos are accessed.
“It just makes more business sense and adds more credibility to the process,” he said.
Deputy Robert Martin, the sheriff’s spokesman who also led the camera initiative, said the videos will be stored on a specific retention schedule. Recordings of felony arrests will remain in storage for 10 years, for example, Martin said.
The Sheriff’s Office already has cameras on the dashboards of some patrol cars but the cameras only give a view of the front of the car and are not as widely used in the department.
Waguespack said he plans to expand use of body cameras with time, including to school resource and transportation officers.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.