SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — South Bend is considering buying additional body cameras for its police officers, although it’s unclear if the proposal was spurred by a white police officer’s recent fatal shooting of a black man.
A request for 75 additional body cameras at a cost of $337,500 was added to the agenda of Wednesday’s meeting of the city’s Board of Public Works, but was removed before the meeting and no action was taken, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Mark Bode, a spokesman for the South Bend mayor’s office, said the item was added to the agenda “prematurely.”
Bode wrote in an email that Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s administration is “evaluating options to upgrade and expand body camera technologies” beyond an initial deployment of cameras that began last year for patrol officers. He said any request for an expansion or upgrade of the city’s body camera program would likely be implemented as part of South Bend’s 2020 budget process or a supplemental appropriation later this year.
Bode said at Wednesday’s meeting that he didn’t know if the process to buy more cameras was started before or after the fatal June 16 shooting of 54-year-old Eric Logan by South Bend Sgt. Ryan O’Neill.
The shooting prompted Buttigieg to leave the campaign trail for several days to answer questions about public safety and race.
Police have said that Logan was armed with a knife when he approached O’Neill and that O’Neill shot him.
A St. Joseph County judge appointed a special prosecutor Wednesday to investigate Logan’s fatal shooting.
Logan’s family is suing O’Neill in federal court, accusing him of using excessive deadly force. The lawsuit also names the city of South Bend as a defendant but does not name Buttigieg.
Prosecutors have said Logan’s shooting was not recorded by O’Neill’s body camera.
It’s unclear whether O’Neill, who remains on paid administrative leave following the shooting, followed department policy by not starting his camera. Buttigieg’s office announced after Logan’s shooting that the city’s police chief had issued a new general order that “officers should activate their body cameras during all work-related interactions with civilians.”
“This step is intended to confirm community expectations that police encounters with civilians will be recorded,” Buttigieg said in a statement.
Previously, department policy 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.”
South Bend equipped all of its patrol officers with body cameras about a year ago after purchasing 170 cameras for $1.5 million. The department has more than 240 officers overall.
South Bend Police spokesman Ken Garcia deferred to Bode for comment on the department’s body cameras.
Bode would not say if the 75 cameras on the request removed from Wednesday’s meeting agenda would be replacing current equipment or if they would be given to officers not currently required to wear a body camera.
Information from: South Bend Tribune