Edmond body camera program
Edmond Police Chief J.D. Younger, right, discusses details of his department's body camera program with Mayor Dan O'Neil and the rest of the Edmond City Council. (Ben White)

The Edmond City Council approved spending more than $65,000 tonight to “complete the deployment” of body cameras for all Edmond Police Department patrol officers.

“We currently have 66 body cameras deployed right now, and with this purchase all of the patrol officers will have cameras,” Councilman Darrell Davis said.

Edmond Police Chief J.D. Younger reminded councilmembers that the state’s sixth-largest city had started its body camera program in 2016.

“We really think it’s what our citizens expect when it comes to the type of transparency that is demanded in 2021,” Younger said.

While the addition of 43 new body cameras will cost $52,370 (paid for with funds obtained via civil asset forfeiture), the City Council also approved server, parts and replacement costs of $13,152. All of the expenses will be paid to Safe-Fleet Mobile Vision Inc., a Missouri company that has sold in-car video technology since 1987.

Past companies used by the Edmond Police Department for its dashboard cameras have merged with Safe-Fleet Mobile Vision, and Younger said using compatible technology for body cameras helps avoid issues.

However, he said the department experienced delays in receiving its prior purchase of 23 body cameras in November 2018. Those cameras were not ultimately received by the department until the summer of 2019.

Younger said he anticipates the 43 new body cameras will be deployed and operational by May 1. His department has 122 total authorized positions, with about 90 uniformed personnel. With the new body camera purchase, all patrol officers and animal welfare officers will wear cameras, and remaining cameras will be used by detectives and held as backup devices.

“We’re really excited to get to this milestone. We think that overall our officers have really wanted this technology for a while, and it’s unfortunate that we hadn’t been able to provide it (previously) at the level of functionality we think is necessary,” Younger said. “But now that we can, it’s just another tool in their tool box as they take care of business, and it’s another signal to our community that we are listening to their expectations. We think this is a tool that helps meet that (expectation) for transparency and trust.”

Edmond Mayor Dan O’Neil agreed.

“I think it’s a long time coming. Part of it was education, part of it was getting used to it. It’s that way with anything that involves change,” O’Neil said. “You would have thought we would have been there a lot sooner. But part of it also was that you’ve got to make it work and find ways of making sure the technology fits and is not too burdensome.”

‘Especially critical in a critical incident’

The need for a universal body camera program for Edmond patrol officers was highlighted by the April 29, 2019, shooting death of 17-year-old Isaiah Lewis. Exhibiting psychosis, the teen frightened his girlfriend and a food delivery driver, stripped off his clothes and eventually entered a stranger’s house. Two Edmond police officers followed him into the home, got into a physical altercation and fatally shot him. Neither officer was wearing a body camera, and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said he did not find probable cause to charge the officers with a crime.

Younger noted that a federal lawsuit regarding Lewis’ death is pending, so he spoke more generally about the value of body cameras.

“We believe in the technology, and we believe it helps continue that trust relationship we have with our community,” he said. “That’s especially critical in a critical incident.”

(Editor’s note: NonDoc is engaged in a reporting project regarding police accountability technology. The project has been funded by the Local Media Foundation.)