Mitchell police body cameras on life support
Just three years into the Mitchell Police Division's decision to implement officer body cameras, the devices are already on life support and need replacing.
Speaking at Monday night's city council meeting, Mitchell Department of Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg noted that the batteries the body cameras use are reaching the end of their life cycle.
In 2015, Mitchell was one of the first cities in South Dakota to equip its officers with body cameras, which provide more officer accountability during an arrest or encounter.
"What we are finding is that there are only so many discharge-charge cycles to the batteries, and unfortunately they are non-replaceable batteries," Mitchell Assistant Police Chief Mike Koster said. "The batteries' life span of our cameras have been reached or exceeded in several of them."
The police department's request was for $19,496 to replace the cameras. Koster said current devices fail to last throughout an officer's 10-hour shift.
"Some of the officers are needing to come back and retrieve the spare cameras, while they recharge the body camera that they are issued," Koster said.
Axon is the company that provides various technologies to the Mitchell Police Division, including the body cameras, Tasers and dash camera. The current body cameras function on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and have a discharge-charge cycle of about 300 cycles.
The division is realizing that the 300 cycles lasts roughly three years on the Axon first generation body camera model. There are new and improved body cameras on the market, and the division would prefer to acquire those through its current provider.
"Axon has made improvements since the first generation camera that we have at the moment," Koster said. "We have been told the new cameras have better battery life, higher resolution and better technologies."
The division has 27 sworn officers, and each officer is equipped with a body camera while on patrol. The division has 30 total body cameras, and three of the devices are down to four hours or less of battery life cycle, according to Koster.
Koster spoke firsthand about dwindling battery life, because his body camera is the one of the three with the least amount of battery life cycle, lasting about an hour.
"We also just installed Axon's product in our patrol cars this year, and they are a good, dependable company. We have no intentions of switching from the company," Koster said. "We are just going to do the best we can to get us through the end of the year, and we are hopeful the council gives us the funding to re-issue new cameras next year."
"They have improved public safety and the department," Koster said, regarding the cameras.