FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — With the Fort Wayne Police Department recently implementing body cameras as of early to mid-2022, many in the public want to know how the process works.
WANE 15’s Ethan Dahlen sat down with the Public Information Officer of the Fort Wayne Police Department Jeremy Webb, to find out the process to request body camera footage and other public records.
It begins with filling out an APRA form or an Access to Public Records form. This form requires you by state stature to note to exact time, day, location and name of the individual involved, not the officer. This request then goes to the legal department and the records department for review, who determines whether the request can be approved based on various requirements, one being whether the investigation is ongoing or not.
If the request is approved by legal the Digital Evidence Management Unit will prepare that video, and the same department will reach out to the requester to schedule a time to view the video. If it’s a request to own that video there’s a fee involved and it’s discussed how the video will be received.
“Sometimes the video can take a lot of time to prepare so there’s not timeframe specified by law that you have to have these requests honored,” said Webb. “We try to expedite it as much as we can but sometimes it’s just not possible with manpower and all the things we have to do.”
If a request is ever denied the individual will always be notified in writing. When a request is granted, the viewer of the video will be taken to a private area where their attorney can be present along with an officer to monitor the viewer to ensure no recording.
“They [the single viewer] can watch it twice but they can’t take their own device and record it themselves,” said Webb.
If any charges are filed, the attorney can also take another avenue to access the video which is to file through discovery.
“I think we underestimated the amount of work required on the back end,” said Webb. “Getting the bodycams is great, the public likes it, we like it, it shows transparency, but on the back end the logistics of preparing it and the personnel that’s involved and the time that’s involved, I don’t think anyone can prepare for that.”
Webb expressed that now he often feels as if they are playing catch up as the amount of personnel doesn’t meet the requests. He says now the FWPD is beginning to catch up making the workflow more efficient. “We’re learning as we go, we made some mistakes but now we’re kind of heading in the right path,” said Webb.
If you would like to read the full Indiana Law on Public Records, you can find that information here.