Lexington NAACP holds town hall with police chief about body cameras

Discussion regarding new body cameras for Lexington police dominated a town hall event sponsored by the Lexington chapter of the NAACP at the Lyric Theatre on Thursday.

William Saunders, president of the chapter, was joined by Police Chief Mark Barnard, who answered questions about the new policy from Saunders and from the audience of about 50 people.

The department announced Thursday that officers will being using the cameras in mid-August. It also released details about how the cameras will be used.

“What we want to do is open up for some questions and have some dialogue here tonight because we don’t want Lexington to have to change its name,” Saunders said. “We don’t want Lexington to become Cleveland, we don’t want Lexington to become Ferguson, don’t want Lexington to become Baltimore.”

Barnard said officers who deal with the public will be wearing cameras.

“Those will be the officers you see in uniform that you interact with every day,” he said.

However, investigators will not wear cameras because they don’t have the same level of interaction with the public, he said.

Video shows what a Lexington police traffic stop from the camera’s perspective while a commander explains how the city’s new body-worn cameras will be used.

Barnard fielded questions about specific policies, including one under which recordings that are not part of an investigation, litigation or open records request may be retained for a minimum of 30 days.

He offered an example: if an officer were to get a tip about a suspicious person around a corner, and he were to find no one there, that video would be deleted unless someone were to come forward with a complaint.

Commander Eric Lowe of the Lexington Police Department explains the use and implementation of body cameras that attach to the collar or glasses of police officers to record responses and incidents.

Marcus Dorsey mdorsey@herald-leader.com

He also said videos would be subject to open-records laws.

Barnard reminded those in attendance that the policy is “a living, breathing document” and open to modification, but some felt they weren’t given the opportunity for enough input at the beginning.

“When it comes down to it…if these body cameras are going to be used in our community on us, we should have some input on this policy,” said Sarah Williams, 34, of Lexington.

Williams said she wanted Barnard to move past saying he’d be willing to meet with community members about the policy to scheduling specific times when discussion could be held.

“As far as citizen input and community input specifically with these policies with the body cameras, there has been nothing substantial done this evening,” she said.

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