Before the end of 2020, the Southaven Police Department will become the first law enforcement agency in DeSoto County to implement the use of body cameras.
SPD’s five-year contract with Axon Inc. comes with a price tag of $929,250. The $185,850 yearly cost represents just a fraction of the SPD budget, which was $12,817,000 for the 2020 fiscal year. The majority of the contract’s cost comes from license fees and cloud storage bundles for Axon’s evidence management system, evidence.com.
This development in local policing comes at a time following months of nationwide protests over police brutality. The instances of police misconduct that sparked these protests were made public only through video footage captured by bystanders. Advocates for the use of body cameras say they protect civilians and officers from false accusations.
According to SPD policies that will govern the use of body cameras, officers will activate their worn body cameras during contacts with the public that fall under the following situations:
All enforcement and investigative contacts including stops of persons and field interview situations, whether consensual or by seizure.
Traffic encounters, including traffic stops, traffic collisions, stranded motorists or otherwise.
When an officer is approached by a civilian who wishes to make the officer aware of any information relating to the officer’s official duties.
Any self-initiated situation in which an officer would normally notify dispatch.
Any transport of a civilian or arrestee.
Any other contact that becomes adversarial after the initial contact in a situation that would not otherwise require recording.
Any additional situation, at the officer’s discretion.
Before deactivating a camera recording, the officer must verbally announce the reason they are doing so. In addition, if an officer fails to activate the video recording equipment, or it malfunctions, in any instance where it should have been used, this must be documented in an incident report.
Requests for the deletion of any portion of a recording, such as an unintended personal recording, must be submitted through email through the officer’s chain of command to the Office of Professional Standards for approval by the Chief of Police or his designee. All requests for deletion and final decisions must be kept on file with the Office of Professional Standards.
When the Southaven Board of Aldermen approved SPD to begin testing with different body camera vendors in January, Mayor Darren Musselwhite said the cameras would protect police from “ridiculously false accusations that are commonplace in our society now.”
When responding to an interview request for this story, Musselwhite declined to comment unless it was guaranteed that the story would not contain references to any pending police lawsuits. Doing so would have violated a DeSoto Times-Tribune policy that prohibits sharing information about articles before publication.
Many began advocating for SPD to adopt the use of body cameras following the 2017 shooting of Ismael Lopez.
In that incident, two Southaven police officers, Samuel Maze and Zachary Durden, mistakenly went to Lopez’s home while trying to serve a domestic violence warrant.
What happened during the following altercation is in dispute, but it ended with Lopez dead from a gunshot to the back of the head. The officers involved said that Lopez pointed a rifle at them through the door and his dog charged them. Lopez’s wife, Claudia Linares, disputes the officers’ statement.
Linares filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, former police chief and the officers involved. and A U.S. District Court judge denied a motion to dismiss the case last month.
The cameras will be deployed across SPD patrols before the end of the year, according to Major Wayne Perkins.