Local I-Team finds many smaller Mid-South police departments not equipped with body cameras

Local I-Team
Local I-Team finds many smaller Mid-South police departments not equipped with body cameras

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation won’t have police video evidence from Monday’s officer involved shooting in Collierville, since officers there don’t wear body cameras.

The department isn’t alone, as nearly every smaller police department in the Mid-South isn’t equipped with the technology, although some could be closer to others to one day adding body cameras.

“If police departments needed body cameras, they would find the money for body cameras,” Josh Spickler with the Memphis criminal justice watchdog group Just City said.

Spickler considers body worn cameras for police officers a mixed bag, with mixed results.

“While body cameras can provide some of that transparency, we really have a lot of work to do on the types of policing and the things we tolerate from our police departments,” Spickler said.

While both the Memphis Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office use body cameras, most smaller departments aren’t on board yet.

Right now, body cameras are not in operation in the Collierville, Germantown, and Horn Lake Police departments, or the Desoto County Sheriff’s Office.

Other departments which don’t have body cameras but discussed or considered the idea include Millington, Southaven, and Olive Branch.

“It’s only as good as the policy in place in the department,” Spickler said.

Body cameras cost a few hundred dollars per camera, with the additional price tag for data storage and manpower.

That’s why Spickler thinks Monday’s officer involved shooting in Collierville, the town’s first in 30 years, may not lead to a sudden shift to get the technology. 

“Obviously in a community like that, you have fewer shootings like this, fewer shootings of any kind, so it’s hard to be critical of the Collierville police department for not having body cameras,” Spickler said.

And body cameras are only helpful when they’re on. Last September, three Memphis Police officers did not have their body cameras rolling during the pursuit and shooting of Martavious Banks in south Memphis.

“In the Martavious Banks case, we had, you know, bullets that we purchased as taxpayers in Shelby County, fired into the back of a citizen and we haven’t been told what happened, we certainly haven’t seen what happened, because those body cameras were disabled,” Spickler said.

The Millington Police Department could be the first Memphis suburban department to add body cameras. Department leaders applied for a Department of Justice grant last month and are expected to find out this fall.

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