All security officers at the Douglas County Corrections department are now equipped with body-worn cameras, Director Mike Myers said during his monthly update to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Shortly before the pandemic spread in 2020, Douglas County Corrections received a federal grant to become one of the first jails in the country to fully implement body-worn cameras. After delays because of Covid-19 and other obstacles, Myers said the system was fully implemented in late August of this year.
Myers said the cameras, which record audio as well as video, provide transparency as well as an extra layer of safety. The cameras feature front-facing screens, making it clear to inmates when they are in use.
“When inmates see this screen, they do tend to de-escalate because they know that they’re being recorded,” Myers said.
Swircek said every officer receives a camera at the beginning of their shift. He said the footage is automatically downloaded and stored in a cloud-based system after the cameras are returned at the end of each shift.
Officers are trained on how and when to use the cameras, Swircek said. It’s the officer’s responsibility to turn on the camera when the situation arises. He said there is potential for disciplinary action if an officer fails to use his camera. Swircek said that although there was an initial learning curve, there have been few issues recently.
“If you’re dealing with an individual that might be emotional or erratic, you’re probably going to want to turn it on,” Swircek said.
Myers also reported that the enhanced pre-trial release program — which went live Sept. 26 — has been a success so far. He said the program gives more individuals the opportunity for lower bonds based on conditions of supervision, like GPS monitoring, check-ins, and a sobriety program.
“The reviews I’ve gotten from judges, and from other criminal justice stakeholders from the prosecution side and the public defender’s side, have been positive,” Myers said.
Myers said he hopes the pre-trial program will “level the playing field” for inmates from a lower socioeconomic background, thanks to a lesser reliance on cash bonds.