All Newton Police patrol officers and supervisors are now outfitted with body-worn cameras.

“In today’s world, judges and juries expect that 21st century technology will be available to document events,” said Eric Murphy, chief of police for Newton. “Hopefully, body cameras will provide another level of accountability and contribute to more positive interaction with the public.”

Last fall the City was awarded $34,335 in Justice Assistance Grant funds from the Kansas Governor’s Grants Program to purchase 25 WatchGuard Vista HD cameras and two Ethernet transfer stations, plus associated software.

Twenty-four of those cameras will be used to outfit patrol officers, patrol corporals and patrol sergeants. One will be set aside in the event it needs to be used by an in-house detective or if there are technical issues with one of the cameras and a patrol officer needs it. 

The department chose WatchGuard partly because of previous experience with the company. WatchGuard in-car patrol cameras have been used by the department for several years. The chosen model of body camera integrates with the department’s existing in-car video system and replaces the in-car body microphone with a video/audio recorder. The recordings on both the body camera and the in-car camera sync into one recording using the existing evidence management library.

“We were among the first departments in the state to use in-car video cameras,” Murphy said, “and we’ve seen the benefits of that in terms of evidence and added safety. Body-worn cameras were the next logical step for us.”

Department policy calls for officers to record “all contacts with citizens in the performance of official duties,” while using discretion in locations where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as restrooms.