The Indiana city where Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is mayor is updating its police officers’ body camera technology following the recent fatal police shooting of a black man.
South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O’ Neill fatally shot Eric Logan on June 16, but the incident wasn’t captured on video because his body camera wasn’t activated. The shooting sparked protests, prompting Buttigieg to leave the campaign trail for several days to answer questions about public safety and race.
The technology upgrades will mean officers’ body cameras can be activated manually or automatically when a squad car door is opened, the South Bend Tribune reported. And soon, sensors will activate the cameras when an officer’s gun is drawn from the holster.
BodyWorn, the Decatur, Georgia-based company that manufactured the department’s cameras, are providing the holster sensors. The sensor technology wasn’t available when South Bend initially purchased the cameras last year for $1.5 million, BodyWorn officials said. The new sensors will be prepared in the next 60 to 90 days.
Ken Garcia, a department spokesman, said officers asked the department for more ways for their cameras to start recording automatically after the shooting. In high-stress circumstances, Garcia said, officers don’t want to worry about having to remember to turn their camera on.
“They wanted something so they could focus on their job,” Garcia said.
The city subsequently issued a new general mandate that “officers should activate their body cameras during all work-related interactions with civilians.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg said the order is another step in making police encounters with people more transparent.
“This step is intended to confirm community expectations that police encounters with civilians will be recorded,” Buttigieg said.
The department’s previous rule called for officers to “activate the recorder during all enforcement stops and field interview situations, and any other time the (officer) reasonably believes that a recording of an on-duty contact may be useful.”
O’Neill resigned from the department last week. In a news release, the Fraternal Order of Police attributed the resignation to stress, nationwide media attention, a lawsuit filed by Logan’s family and “hateful things said on social media.”
A special prosecutor is currently reviewing the case for possible criminal charges.
The local police union didn’t return the newspaper’s call seeking comment.