Across America 6,000 police departments use body cameras.
Southwestern College is not one of them.
SWCPD received a $3,000 grant for body cameras in 2014, but officers have yet to wear them.
Funding from ASIS International, a global security organization, was granted to help SWCPD start a body camera program. About 35 percent of America police departments employ body cameras according to the 21st Century Police Task Force.
Fast forward three years and there has been no progress at Southwestern.
SWCPD Sgt. Robert Sanchez said he was skeptical about the logistics of body cameras from the beginning.
“Introducing a new camera system also means getting a new server to support and store the body evidence data,” he said. “The officers cannot manipulate the video. The only thing the officer will be allowed to do is dock (a) camera and download the data to the server.”
Sanchez said there was not enough money provided to staff the entire force.
“Unfortunately it takes more then just $3,000 to get a body worn program going,” he said. “We could have bought with $3,000 about for or five cameras.”
SWCPD is looking into purchasing a $7,000 server to support body cameras, Sanchez said.
Former Police Chief Michael Cash, who was directed to establish body cameras at the college, spent considerable amounts of money on new vehicle and personnel, but never completed the body camera system. The vehicles have some largely unused and are parked around campus with no officers inside. At least three people hired by Cash were done so outside the college hiring process and were let go. One is currently suing the college.
Tim Flood, SWC vice president of financial affairs, said he was not yet working at the college when the grant was awarded.
“I am sure we have the funding in abeyance in a public safety account until the cameras and storage was identified and purchased,” he said.
Flood confirmed that a meeting is planned to discuss the possible purchase of a server to support body cameras, but that no specific plans exist. Sanchez said the original proposal was to have a long-term maintenance contract for the cameras and server since the SWCPD does not have the expertise to repair the equipment. Any proposal would have to consider which type of cameras to purchase, said Sanchez, and how to remain current.
Some SWC students and faculty have been vocal proponents of body cameras following the details of several African-Americans in the hands of American Police in other parts of the country.
SWCPD has weathered numerous controversies in recent years, including abuse of power by former chief Brent Chartier and still-unexplained gunfire by Cash in the SWCPD locker room. Cash was put on administrative leave in October 2016 when a female student worker alleged sexual assault and attempted rape in police headquarters. She filed a lawsuit against Cash and the SWCPD in December. Cash was caught hiring officers who did not go through a legal hiring process or who were not police academy graduates.