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The Iowa Department of Public Safety is asking the Iowa Legislature for $385,000 to take the “final steps” in outfitting all Iowa State Patrol troopers with body cameras.
If lawmakers approve use of the Technology Reinvestment Fund for equipment installation and licensing of software, troopers could be using the body cameras in a year, Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens said.
“It’s in progress,” he said. “We anticipate within the next 12 to 14 months we’ll have a camera program at the department. It will depends on whether the Legislature appropriates the funds for installation and licensing.”
The agency that stops more than 150,000 motorists a year, provides security at the state Capitol and staffs high-profile events like RAGBRAI will benefit from body cameras, according to a briefing document prepared for the Legislature.
“Installation and licensing are the final steps in our device implementation, which increases transparency, reduces liability, and enhances professionalism for Troopers in state police agencies nationwide,” the agency wrote.
Public Safety spokeswoman Debra McClung confirmed Monday video from trooper body cameras would be available to the public.
“Body camera video is a public record under Iowa Chapter 22, which the Department of Public Safety follows, she said in an email, referring to the section of Iowa law dealing with public records.
Routers already in place
The first step in equipping state troopers with body cameras was to upgrade each of 390 squad cars with a mobile router, Bayens said.
Gov. Kim Reynolds last fall approved $2.2 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act for the routers, which allow troopers to upload video from dashboard cameras used in the cars since the 1990s.
“Before that, once a week, they had to drive to the command post and upload the previous week’s (dash camera video) footage,” Bayens said. “Now we can wirelessly push all the video from the car during regular duties.”
Last year, the Legislature approved a Public Safety equipment fund and filled it with $5 million, half from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund and half from the state’s General Fund, McClung said. The agency is seeking another $5 million for the fund this year.
“The cameras themselves will come out of that fund,” Bayens said.
The agency will seek competitive bids for the cameras, which cost between $600 and $1,000, and for data storage. “It could be $600,000 to $1 million to outfit our troopers with the hardware itself,” he said.
But because the equipment fund can’t cover installation and licensing, Public Safety is seeking that money from the Technology Reinvestment Fund. A decision on funding likely will happen toward the end of the Legislative session, usually in mid- to late April.
Iowa lawmakers told The Gazette last year they generally supported the State Patrol getting body cameras.
Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, who worked for the Newton Police Department for 24 years, said he would have liked to have his interactions with the public recorded but his agency didn’t get body cameras until after he retired in 2017.
“Nine times out of 10, the camera will help the officer to the extent that what they’re saying, what they’re doing, is what happened,” he said in June.
Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, said he would like to see the policies State Patrol puts in place regarding when video must be recorded and when the public can access the video.
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