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A Watchguard body camera sits on the table at the Cheyenne Police Department on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2018. Officers have been using the new cameras since Oct. 1. Katie Kull/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Cheyenne police started using body cameras about 10 weeks ago, but on Wednesday, members of the media got a tutorial in how they’re going to be used and what footage could be released to the public.

The meeting featured a rundown on department policy regarding body and dash cameras, an example of the footage and an explanation of the laws surrounding footage release.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle compiled some information Cheyenne residents should know about the department’s new tools.

What are the cameras, and how do they work?

The department’s cameras were purchased from the company Watchguard on a four-year contract for $769,750. Half of that money was provided through a grant, and the other half was from the city of Cheyenne. The funding covered body and dash cameras, as well as maintenance and updates for those four years.

At the beginning of each shift, officers pick up a cartridge that stores the recording.

When they make contact with a suspect or do an investigation, officers switch on the cameras. The cameras are also activated when the officer turns on his or her lights in their vehicles.

The footage is then bookmarked and ready for download.

The dash and body camera combination takes four different video angles: a wide-angle view from the front of the car, a typical dash camera view, the body camera angle and footage of the back seat.

When am I being recorded?

The officers’ body cameras are technically always recording without sound.

However, the footage is only bookmarked and saved when the officer pushes a button or the sirens on the vehicle are activated.

If the officer doesn’t push the button or activate the sirens and would like to retrieve that footage later, the department can call the company within 30 days from the recording being made and may be able to get the footage without sound.

According to department policy, officers have discretion to turn off the recording in “sensitive situations” and/or if a victim requests they turn it off and it is safe to do so.

The cameras must be worn by officers in uniform at all times, and they must capture anything in front of the officer, according to Cheyenne Police Department spokesman Officer Kevin Malatesta.

What footage can I see?

State law outlines four circumstances under which citizens can “inspect” body camera footage:

  • if the person requesting it is in the video
  • if the video involves deadly force or serious bodily injury
  • in response to a complaint against a law-enforcement officer and if the department determines its release is not “contrary to the public interest”
  • if the footage would be in the interest of public safety In order to inspect the videos, citizens can submit a records request form to the department available in the records department or online at cheyennepd.org.

Police can trim or crop the video if it contains sensitive information such as a juvenile or something that would hinder the investigation, Malatesta said. The department will not have the ability to blur out faces or alter the video in any other way.

If citizens disagree with the department’s determination in denying a request, they can appeal at Laramie County District Court.

What happens once the officer records the footage?

All body and dash camera videos will be stored on a secure server, and the department’s software tracks anyone who watches the video, according to the presentation.

Those videos cannot be altered when they’re in the system, and police policy prohibits the sharing or recording of the videos.

Katie Kull is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s criminal justice reporter. She can be reached at kkull@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3122. Follow her on Twitter at @katiekull1.

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