Sioux City Police Will Float Proposal For 120 Body Cameras
The Sioux City Police Department will bring forward a proposal to the city council on Monday requesting body cameras and other related equipment to enhance police accountability and public trust.
Under the proposal, 120 body-worn cameras, video storage and other means to implement them will cost nearly $261,000. Police Chief Rex Mueller said during a Friday news conference that his department wants the body cameras for several reasons: To accurately document police-public contacts and arrests, as well as to enhance the accuracy of reports and testimony in court. They would also serve as evidence for investigative and prosecution-related matters, could document crime and accident scenes, and may help provide information to train and evaluate officers. Mueller said his department believes the cameras will be a “positive advancement” for police and residents.
“I think they show great transparency, will show the training and patience of our officers, and I really appreciate the support of the council, the mayor, and now our citizens on this,” Mueller said.
Mueller said the plan is to assign cameras to the roughly 90 uniformed officers in the police department. They’ll have extra cameras for school resource officers, detectives and tactical unit members, should they need them.
“We’re trying to have the best compromise between having enough for all of our personnel who regularly interact with the public and having some accessible because not everybody needs one,” Mueller said.
If approved, officers would need to activate their cameras while interacting with the public, Mueller said. But there would be some exceptions, like while talking with a victim of a crime about a sensitive matter.
The cameras would be made by Getac Video Solutions, which can sync with the 37 video systems in the police department’s patrol vehicles. City Finance Director Teresa Fitch said in an email to IPR that the funding for the body cameras and other equipment would come from Redflex funds, generated through red light and speed cameras around the city.
Police in other large Iowa cities, including Des Moines, Davenport and Waterloo have had body cameras in place for at least a couple of years. In Sioux City, proposals for body cameras have come up in multiple budget sessions in the past. However, they haven’t been prioritized until after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police and amid public outcry at a council meeting this past month.
Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott said there are still some questions, like how the footage would be stored, how it would be made available to the public and how certain components would be redacted. He supports the body cameras and said he would be "shocked" if the proposal doesn't pass unanimously.
“These cameras will only confirm what I believe to be that we have police officers that act in a professional manner,” Scott said. He said if a police officer acts unprofessionally, “we need to make sure we learn from that and we need to make sure we train for that.” The cameras are a positive tool but will take some adjusting, he said.
“I don’t think this is a cure-all overnight that are going to solve all the problems of the public perception of what policing in this country are about,” Scott said.
He continued, “This community and this country right now are terribly divided which is unfortunate. But if this puts the public’s minds at ease, I think it’s a positive step for the community.”