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Sheriff’s department plans to roll out body cameras by April

Department has selected BodyWorn as camera vendor

KENOSHA COUNTY The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department plans to roll out body cameras to its 300 jail, patrol and conveyance unit personnel by April or May of this year.

Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Eric Klinkhammer gave the Kenosha County Judiciary and Law Committee that update on the department getting body cameras for deputies Wednesday night.

According to Klinkhammer, the department is currently in the process of “testing capability” of its systems with the company that will serve as the provider of the cameras.

Department has chosen vendor

The department has chosen BodyWorn as its camera vendor, according to Klinkhammer. 

The company’s system includes a combination of features to integrate interactions between squad car cameras and body cameras, he explained. 

“We’re currently at a setup with the vendor,” Klinkhammer said. “They’re getting information from us and IT to make sure the system works. We are implementing the body cameras in both patrol and the jail and our conveyance unit. 

“So every uniform line staff will be equipped with a body cam.”

Body cams deployed by April or May

Administration is currently finishing up the policy that will govern deputy’s use of their body cameras. However, Klinkhammer expects that to happen soon the department has two meetings on the topic next week.

“Other than that, we’re moving along pretty swiftly,” Klinkhammer concluded. “And we’re estimating that we will go live with deployed body cameras between April or May, depending on how smoothly the installations go.”

Worn near mid-chest

Dist. 5 County Supervisor David Celebre, who sits on the committee, asked where the department will require deputies wear their cameras on their body. Celebre’s concern seemingly being that the video of an incident could be obscured based on that placement.

“The company actually has already started modifying our uniforms,” Klinkhammer responded. “The body camera is approximately just above mid-chest height. And it is stored inside of a case that is inside of the uniform shirt in a zipper. And there is a grommet that houses the lens for the camera.

“So it’s at the suggested height by the vendor.”

Activation of cameras

Supervisors also raised the question of when deputies would activate their body cameras.

“Are they only going to be turned on when a weapon’s pulled?” Dist. 10 Supervisor Andy Berg asked Klinkhammer. “Are they going to be turned on whenever there’s an interaction with a stop?”

Klinkhammer responded that the department plans to configure the cameras “geographically.”

“So when an officer is dispatched to a call, and they arrive within a certain distance to that call in the GPS, the camera will automatically turn on,” he explained.

The cameras also have the usual manual turn on option, as well as a host of others Klinkhammer summed up for the committee Wednesday night.

“The cameras currently have a trigger that, if (deputies) open their squad car door, that camera will turn on,” the lieutenant said. “And then, of course, the normal activations of the lights and siren or just the overhead lights being turned on, the camera will turn on. 

“The portable body camera also acts as the microphone for the squad car camera,” he added. “So they’re all linked together.” 

While those are the “triggers” that the department plans to use for the cameras, “we haven’t had an opportunity to test them,” Klinkhammer said. 

Data stored from cameras

Berg also questioned Klinkhammer on the type of data the cameras will send to the department.

“We’ll have audio and video of most things our deputies do,” Klinkhammer said.

An exception would be when officers are going into an establishment to get food or to use the bathroom.

However, outside of that, the department expects deputies to keep their cameras on when they activate automatically.

“Well, when they open their door and they’re responding to a call, they’re going to be expected to leave that camera on until that incident is concluded,” Klinkhammer said.

“So we’ll be able to track that, you know, based on the amount of time they spent on the call and the amount of time their video is running.”

The system also tracks GPS data from the camera themselves, not just the deputies’ squad cars.

“So if the officer is in a foot pursuit, for example, we’ll be able to see a breadcrumb trail of everywhere that officer ran,” Klinkhammer said. “So that data we’ll have.

“As far as other data would be the time, date that they’re turned on and off, the GPS locations and then, of course, the audio and video.”

Raw data stored 120 days 

How long footage would be stored caused a bit of a stall in the conversation about the cameras Wednesday night.

Under state statute, coming from a bipartisan bill signed into law by Gov. Tony Evers in February 2020, law enforcement agencies must retain camera footage for at least 120 days.

What’s classified as evidence stored indefinitely

While some supervisors believe the county should store the footage for longer, Dist. 16 County Supervisor Jerry Gulley stepped in to ask a question to clarify what happened to evidentiary footage. 

“Again, that 120 days, the retention, that’s of non-controversial or problematic data,” Gulley said. “Meaning that if within that time period there’s identification that that piece of evidence is pertinent for any reason, it’s kept. So it’s really that that’s the period of determining whether it is possibly pertinent down the road, right?”

“Correct,” Klinkhammer responded. “I’ve been doing internal affairs now for a year. And even before that, I also handled a lot of the squad videos and our surveillance video. And the longest I’ve had to go back was two or three months.

“Most of the time we’re going to know about an incident well within that 120 days and want to keep that footage.”

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