Franklin police officers and patrol cars will soon be equipped with state-of-the-art cameras, a growing trend among police departments nationwide.
For Franklin though, it has been years in the making, city officials have said.
The Franklin Board of Public Works and Safety Monday night unanimously approved a contract with Decatur, Ga.-based BodyWorn for the $598,984 purchase. The board will need to vote on it again Oct. 5.
The department has wanted body cameras for years, but the funding wasn’t there, Police Chief Kirby Cochran has said.
"The timing is perfect in light of everything that’s going on around the country right now," Cochran said.
The city will buy BodyWorn cameras for all 53 police officers and 43 patrol cars, and hopes to have those on-boarded early next year, he said.
"It’s a good tool for the public and gives us a good sense of security," Cochran said.
The cameras allow for more transparency, but it is more than that, he said. It will also serve as a tracking device, so if an officer gets injured, they can be found quickly.
The cameras are just one part of the city’s plan to invest in its police next year, growing the department’s budget by about 6.5% overall, equipping all of its officers with cameras, and adding a therapy dog and new position.
The city will add a licensed crisis intervention officer to focus solely on mental health and diversity training at the police department and within the community. The crisis intervention officer will also serve as a mental health outreach coordinator, helping the community with drug addiction rehabilitation. Cochran is working on a job description now, and hopes to interview candidates before the new year, he said.
"A lot of people are talking about defunding the police. We’re not. And as we were all talking one-on-one, none of us are for that. We’re actually adding to our police department," Mayor Steve Barnett said during a recent budget hearing.
The BodyWorn cameras will cost taxpayers about $120,000 a year for five years, officials said.
"A lot of small departments can’t afford to do this. We’re lucky to have what we have," Cochran said.
The Greenwood Police Department and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office are the only other departments in the county that use body cameras. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department recently took the leap as well.