Elkhart County jail, patrol officers to wear video cameras

Approved $98,596 for that cell phone detection system and for body cameras for sheriff’s patrol officers and jail officers

By Roger Schneider
Goshen News

GOSHEN — Elkhart County jail inmates who want to call home with a smuggled cell phone, or file a lawsuit alleging abuse by jail guards, will have a harder time doing so in the future.Saturday morning, the Elkhart County Council approved spending money to acquire cell phone detection equipment for the county jail. The council approved $98,596 for that system and for body cameras for sheriff’s patrol officers and jail guards.

Sheriff Brad Rogers told the council members the technology will allow officers to find any cell phones in the jail, even if they are switched off and don’t have a battery. The sheriff said the system can also detect phones hidden in body cavities when inmates walk past the detection device.

The expenditure will also pay for about 70 body cameras for patrol officers and 10 to 12 cameras for jail staff, according to Rogers.

“We need to have body cameras on our patrol officers and corrections officers,” Rogers told the council.

He said with advanced video technology being commonplace in society, the public’s attitude has changed.

“This is the day and age when people are expecting the evidence to be there,” he said.

The department has tested the cameras in the jail and found just their presence helps in controlling inmates.

“It’s amazing how appropriate the inmates behave when they see that little red light is on,” Rogers said.

Council members asked the sheriff is the cameras will stop inmates from filing frivolous lawsuits.

“They will still sue us,” Rogers said. “But we have the evidence to easily dismiss it.”

The battery for the high definition body cameras will be stored in an officer’s chest pocket and the camera clipped to the front of their shirt. Rogers said video will be stored for at least three years on redundant computer servers. The system will be compatible with patrol car dash cameras, he said, and will use a memory card. Officers will be able to turn the cameras on and off manually, so if they are directing traffic or are on some other routine task, batteries are not drained.

He expects to purchase the cameras in the coming week from Digital Ally, the same company that supplies the dash cameras and have them in use a few weeks later.

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