Body cameras could be rolled out this fall
LAKELAND — The Lakeland Police Department has announced that body cameras may be deployed to officers by this fall.
Deputy Chief Hans Lehman told city commissioners the agency hopes to receive a shipment of 250 cameras and 250 Tasers to replace their outdated models by June. If so, Lehman said the deployment to officers would take place in October or November — months ahead of the previous schedule. Its previous estimate was December at the earliest.
“It’s incredibly commendable,” said Mayor Bill Mutz, who strongly advocated for equipping officers with cameras.
The department has begun drafting a policy that governs how officers are to use body cameras and governs best practices. Lehman said the hope is to have a first draft drafted in late April or May, with the regulations submitted to the commission for approval over the summer.
The department’s schedule should allow rules to be put in place regarding when equipment should arrive from Arizona-based supplier Axon Enterprises, Inc..
“Everyone has delays with supply and demand,” Lehman said.
Representatives from Axon are scheduled to come to Lakeland for a week in June to provide hands-on training to the department’s 250 officers.
The agency anticipates it will take about three months from July to September to ensure that all members are fully trained, according to Lehman. This time will be used to test the new equipment and to ensure that it can communicate and be integrated with their new Computer Aided Dispatch System, or CAD/RMS software, launched on March 22.
Officers began going to community events to talk about the department’s latest technology upgrades.
“It’s not just body cameras,” Lehman said, “it’s a whole digital evidence management system.”
In addition to four virtual reality training sets, the police department ordered upgraded cameras for its interrogation room as part of the 10-year, $9.3 million package with Axon. It will move from its on-premises server and DVD evidence storage to unlimited cloud storage. Lehman said these measures should allow for easier sharing of evidence between the police department, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the state’s attorney’s office.
Officers began attending various community meetings across Lakeland to share details about the department’s latest tech updates and answer questions, particularly about the cameras.
Lehman said there is a Citizen for Community program offered by Axon that will allow residents to submit home security camera footage, cellphone video and other digital evidence directly to police.
A secondary mobile app will allow Lakeland police officers to take photos of crime scenes with their department-issued cellphones and upload them to the system to form part of the records.
“We’re really creating more efficiency for us,” Lehman said.
By fall, the department is expected to receive 165 ordered in-vehicle video dashcams with license plate reader technology — enough to supply marked cars in the city’s fleet.
It will take time to get up and running, Lehman said, adding that about two to three cars a day will be taken out of rotation, the old system will be retired and new cameras will be installed.
The new system should be fully operational by the end of the year.
Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7545. Follow @SaraWalshFL on Twitter.