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Metro-area police will not be getting body cameras

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News Fargo, 58102
INFORUM
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Fargo ND 101 5th Street North 58102

FARGO – Fargo-area law enforcement agencies are taking a mixed approach to the adoption of body cameras for their officers after the fatal police shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo.

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The Cass County Sheriff’s Office has budget plans in place to get five body cams by March 2016.

The five cameras will be traded among officers who take out one of the five vehicles the agency has that don’t have cameras.

Cass County Sheriff’s Capt. Mitch Burris said the $900 cameras are about the size of a Zippo lighter, high-definition, encrypted and waterproof.

The catch is that they’re manual, not automatic like cameras in the patrol cars, so officers will have to turn them on and off.

“If you’re running, you’re probably not going to hit record until you stop running,” Burris said. “We feel that’s a training issue.”

In West Fargo, police recently gave body cams a test run and decided they weren’t such a great idea, primarily because of the video quality.

The video they got back was “almost nauseating” because of all the bouncing, said West Fargo Police Chief Michael Reitan.

The department also was worried about the amount of data storage needed, which could require hiring another person to act as a video librarian.

Storage needs also were a concern for other agencies in the metro area.

Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said his department would need about $15,000 to $20,000 a year just to get enough digital storage to keep up with what body cams create.

That, combined with the $700 to $1,000 cost for each body cam, made the proposition cost-prohibitive in Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes’s eyes, Vettel said.

“It’s hard for him to justify the expense,” he said.

Vettel said there are advantages with body cams over other recording devices the department’s officers now use. Fargo officers wear microphones that record audio to complement cameras that record from officers’ patrol vehicles.

Those cameras automatically come on under certain circumstances, such as when the car’s lights do, or in response to a crash, Reitan said.

Moorhead police have video and audio recording on their Tasers, in addition to body microphones and car cameras, said

Lt. Tory Jacobson.

His department recently replaced its computers and video recorders. With 55 officers to cover, it isn’t likely Moorhead will invest in body cams anytime soon, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541

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