LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The first shipment of Taser Axon body-worn cameras was delivered to the Lexington Police Department this week, and officers will start using them in mid-August. Mayor Jim Gray and Police Chief Mark Barnard unveiled the new policy that will guide officers’ use of the cameras on Thursday.
“We’ve taken our time and done our homework, thoroughly researching camera equipment and policies,” Mayor Jim Gray said. “We’ve learned from other police departments and organizations about best practices and mistakes to avoid. Now we’re ready to move ahead with a solid plan that will improve the safety of our city and its citizens.”
“The body-worn cameras are another piece of technology intended to assist citizens, officers and investigations,” Chief Barnard said. “This new equipment will enhance the level of public trust the police department has built with the community we serve.”
As part of the initial rollout, 75 officers will each be issued two cameras following a brief training seminar. The officers will represent all patrol sectors and some special operations units, covering all shifts. Future shipments will eventually equip 400 officers with cameras.
The department’s policy for body-worn cameras requires officers to activate their camera for all law enforcement contact with citizens, investigative or otherwise, that occur within the performance of an officer’s official duties. These interactions include pedestrian and vehicle stops, calls for service at businesses and homes, and motorist assists.
However, cameras will generally not be used to record while the officer is on break, communicating with another police department employee, or in a location where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a locker room or restroom.
The Lexington Police Department consulted with several law enforcement agencies and community organizations—including the NAACP, Lexington Human Rights Commission, American Civil Liberties Union, Commonwealth’s Attorney and County Attorney—to develop the body-worn camera policy. Citizens can view the policy, a list of frequently asked questions, and an example of body camera video footage on the City’s website.
“We took a careful, methodical approach to selecting these cameras and writing the policy,” Chief Barnard said. “With an investment this big, it was important to get input from community stakeholders, city leaders, and officers. As officers begin using the cameras in real-world situations, we will learn and make adjustments to our operations and policy as needed.”
Earlier this year the Urban County Council approved a $2.6 million, five-year contract with Taser International. The contract covers the cost of cameras and cloud-based video storage.
The police department’s Public Integrity Unit will conduct a random monthly audit of body-worn camera videos. The original version of the video cannot be edited by anyone, including system administrators. Recordings will be retained for a minimum of 30 days for non-evidentiary videos, and all evidential videos will be retained until the criminal case is adjudicated in a court of law or the statute of limitations has passed.
Release of body-worn camera recordings to the news media or any person will be made in accordance with current department policy and procedures, pursuant to the Kentucky Open Records Act.