Council approves purchase of body cams

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Pawhuska City Council on Thursday evening, Feb. 18, approved by a 4-0 vote moving forward with the purchase of body cameras and new TASER weapons for the police department.

TASER weapons are intended to be a non-lethal option for law officers in the field, giving them an opportunity to subdue unruly suspects without using firearms.

The total cost of the proposal was $106,550, and Interim Police Chief Lorrie Hennesy said the amount will be payable over five years. Hennesy told councilors that the TASER weapons her officers have been using are obsolete and essentially worthless. It is impossible to get batteries or cartridges for the older TASER weapons and some of them have been malfunctioning, Hennesy said.

Of the $106,550 cost for the new package, slightly more than $54,000 will be for the updated TASER weapons.

At-Large Councilor Steve Tolson questioned why the city would buy anything else from the same company that sold the now-obsolete TASER weapons. The city reportedly still owes in excess of $11,000 on those devices, which Hennesy said have been removed from the duty belts of officers.

Hennesy said she confronted the company with that exact question. She said the debt still owed on the old TASER weapons is to be forgiven as part of the new arrangements for updated TASER weapons, as well as body cameras. Pawhuska officers have not previously had body cameras.

The new deal is said to include warranty coverage for all TASER weapons and body cameras, a TASER weapon instructor voucher so that someone within the Pawhuska Police Department can be trained as an instructor and prepared to provide local officers with required annual training, and an unlimited supply of cartridges for the next five years.

When an officer using one of the new body cameras draws his or her TASER weapon or firearm, the body camera will automatically activate to record what is happening, Hennesy said. The body cameras can also be used by the police department to determine the location of an officer in distress and get aid to that person, she said.

Another aspect of the new body cameras will be that they can be used to record audio, meaning that statements of police officers and persons with whom they come into contact can be recorded and reviewed later.

During her presentation last Thursday, Hennesy told councilors that there had been a recent incident that may result in legal action, but she indicated that she thinks the police department acted appropriately.

“If we go to court, everything is legit,” she said.

Hennesy said that OMAG (the Oklahoma Municipal Assurance Group) offers a $10,000 grant to help cover the cost of body cameras for law officers.