Treasure Valley agencies consider body cameras for officers

CALDWELL, Idaho (KBOI) - The Ada County Sheriff's Office wants to purchase small cameras that officers wear within the next six months, and a handful of other Treasure Valley law enforcement agencies are looking at the devices.

One of the first in the state to use them was the Canyon County Sheriff's Office. They use a thumb-sized camera, recording when they respond to certain calls.

"It's activated by the officer," said Capt. Dana Maxfield of the Canyon County Sheriff's Office. "It's not recording all the time, so there are certain types of calls and instances that yes, we do record, and there are others that we do not."

Maxfield says the agency's policy is to record traffic stops and domestic violence calls, for example, but not routine contact with people on the street.

Officers in Nampa released footage from an incident in September 2012. Body cameras captured a dog attacking an officer, who then shot the dog.

Ada County Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman Andrea Dearden says her agency's been considering the cameras for about two years.

"We looked at the best ways to capture as much about a call and a deputy's actions during that call as possible," she said in an email. "With in-car cameras, we only capture a very limited amount of activity (studies suggest 12 percent of deputy's daily activity). On-body video increases that exponentially simply because the camera goes wherever the deputy goes."

Dearden says they plan to start by buying 70 to 100 cameras that cost $300 to $500 each.

Police departments in Boise, Meridian, Garden City and Caldwell are reportedly considering similar cameras.

Maxfield estimates the Canyon County Sheriff's Office has 150 to 175 cameras, which cost about $100 each. They've used the current model, one that anyone can buy online, for about seven years now.

"It's been a good investment, not only for the quality of the cases that we're being able to get to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office but also for the officer's piece of mind as well," Maxfield said.

The footage is downloaded to a computer, and a system keeps track of who's accessed it to prevent tampering.