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Body cameras

Floyd County Sheriff's Office investigator Patrick Shirley displays a body camera on the front of his uniform Tuesday at the Floyd County Courthouse in Charles City. Shirley said the department purchased these cameras because their versatility allows them to be worn on the front of the uniform, attached to the shoulder strap or used with an optional camera headset.

CHARLES CITY | While some area law enforcement agencies continue to weigh funding, open records and policy implications for body cameras, Floyd County is live.

The small video cameras, which are worn by officers and record their interactions with the public, are "a good tool," said Deputy Travis Bartz of the Floyd County Sheriff's Office. His office began using body cameras the first week in August.

The Charles City Police Department, also operating in Floyd County, has had body cameras since 2012, while Franklin County is considering them for sheriff's deputies.

"Body cameras are going to be more and more common" and eventually could become mandatory, according to Bartz.

Floyd County

The Floyd County Sheriff's Office wanted to "be proactive and ahead of the game," Bartz said.

Dash cams only record what is immediately in front of the law enforcement vehicle, so if the officer moves away from the car to pursue a suspect on foot or goes inside a residence, there's no footage available from the dash cam, Bartz said.

The total cost for the 10 body cameras and all the necessary accessories and software purchased by the Floyd County Sheriff's Office was about $4,900.

The sheriff's office received a $4,000 grant from the Floyd County Community Foundation for the cameras. Bartz was in charge of applying for the grant.

A local business, L&J Welding, contributed $500. The rest came from the budget for the sheriff's office.

Each camera is "about the size of two packages of gum," Bartz said.

"It's not big or bulky," he said. "It's discreet and comfortable."

Each camera has a phone jack that is clipped to the deputy's ear so whenever the deputy's head turns, "the camera is going to see what we see," whether it's a traffic stop or a domestic abuse incident, he said.

The body cameras also allow deputies to record interviews on the side of the road or inside a residence without having to bring people to the sheriff's office, which is very handy and keeps the deputies on the streets, Bartz said.

Charles City Police Lt. Brad Worrall said officers in that department wear the cameras on the front of their uniforms.

He said sometimes it can be difficult for an officer to remember a 15- to 20-minute conversation with someone, but a body camera, which captures audio as well as video, can record it all.

Worrall said there have been cases where officers have been accused of wrongdoing and the footage from the body cameras disproved those claims.

Franklin County

Larry Richtsmeier said he loves the idea of body cameras.

But the Franklin County sheriff doesn't love the idea of having the officers wear them the entire time they are on duty, including when they are in the bathroom.

He worries a public records request could result in video of a work break appearing online "just to embarrass the officers."

However, policies on body cameras are changing, according to Richstmeier. He said he joined the International Chiefs of Police Association to access other policies and learn how other agencies are adapting.

Cost is another concern. He said the cameras are inexpensive; storage is not.

But once the sheriff's office has the money and a workable policy in place, "it's going to happen," he said.

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