In December 2015, Portage PD Chief Williams stated that a proposed city ordinance for police cams was: "Reckless and irresponsible". Chief Williams defended his stance against police cams by claiming, "he doesn't receive many complaints about Portage officers. They're professional...[Still waiting for Chief Williams to investigate the unlawful police entry into my home and the deaths of my furbabies]
Now, following the officer involved shooting of William Spates, Chief Williams states: "I've always stated I'm not against cameras...".
Had Chief Williams not shot down the city's attempt in 2015, for Portage PD officers to wear body cams, and for squad cars to be equipped with cams, there would have been video backing up what happened during the April 22, 2016 officer involved shooting of William Spates.
Portage police lukewarm on dashcams, body cameras
May 03, 2017
The Portage Police Department is taking another look at dashboard cameras, or dashcams, for its patrol units, but the department is not alone in Northwest Indiana in going without the controversial technology.
Portage tried dashcams until about 10 years ago, but a string of problems with the system ultimately crashed the idea, said police Chief Troy Williams, who is lukewarm at best on the idea.
"I've always stated I'm not against cameras, however, there's a lot of other factors that go into the decision," Williams said. "We've been moderately researching (returning to dashcams) among the many other tasks we have."
When it had dashcams, the Portage Police Department's system was prone to costly malfunctions and breakdowns, jeopardizing video and audio that were collected, Williams said.
In December 2015, Portage's Common Council almost unanimously shot down an ordinance calling for body cameras for its officers, but installing the recording technology on patrol cars took on new attention following the fatal police-involved shooting April 22 of Portage resident William Spates, 39, who had just been released from the county jail.
City Council President Mark Oprisko said he's "not opposed to looking into dash- or body cams," but finding a way to finance a camera system will be the key.
"It all comes down to money and costs," Oprisko said. "But, I know (Williams) has been looking into a lot of things, even before the (Spates) shooting."
Dashcam systems require expensive servers, storage systems and other hardware and software costs, and they raise issues of privacy rights, including how to handle video of police interactions with juveniles, Williams said.
"Obviously, we had this (shooting) incident, but the Portage Police Department is not the only department in the region that does not have dash- or body cams," he said. "They're not the end-all be-all. They obviously can play a role, but any police department would not be doing their due diligence researching before jumping into this blindly."
All of Hammond's police officers must wear body cameras provided by the department, and Hammond officers are required to record their conversations and interactions with civilians, said Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott.
Neither the Gary Police Department nor the Porter County sheriff's office has dashcams or body cameras, officials in those communities said.
Williams declined to comment on any details related to ongoing investigation of the Spates shooting incident, but he cautioned against relying on the technology.
"Cameras can be important, however, it's a small facet of recorded history," he said. "I don't know dashcams would prevent someone from trying to harm an officer or commit an infraction."
Portage police body cameras out of picture, for now
December 02, 2015 - 9:16AM
The Portage City Council nixed a proposed ordinance from an outgoing councilman to equip police officers with body cameras by the end of 2019.
Matt Scheuer, D-5th, said Tuesday he introduced the ordinance because his constituents asked for it.
Police Chief Troy Williams opposed Scheuer's proposed ordinance saying Scheuer put it together without police input, bypassing the ordinance committee. Williams, however, said he's not necessarily opposed to police wearing body cameras.
"It's reckless and irresponsible the way this ordinance came up. I was not contacted and I don't believe the FOP was contacted… we're talking about making policy for the police department, but nobody from the police department was contacted," Williams said.
The council rejected the ordinance by a 6-1 vote, but did agree to discuss body cameras at an upcoming ordinance committee meeting next year.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Modesto said she attended an Indiana Association of Cities and Towns conference recently and learned it could cost $200,000 to $300,000 annually to store the video from all the body cameras.
Scheuer said the ordinance wasn't an attempt to micro-manage. He said they would lead to a decline in civilian complaints, improve relations with the public, and aid police in investigations and prevent frivolous lawsuits. Scheuer said he wanted to bring the issue up before he left the council. He was defeated in the May primary.
The Portage FOP Lodge 145 sent a letter to the council saying it hopes the decision on body cameras won't be rushed and include consultation with police.
Williams said he doesn't receive many complaints about Portage officers. "They're professional," he said. "I don't know if I have a huge issue with telling a gang banger... to get out of our city."