Soldotna police get body cams

The Soldotna Police Department will soon have extra eyes on the ground with the introduction of body cameras for its officers.

In what he describes as getting ahead of the curve in terms of transparency, Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik said the department purchased 14 body cameras, each for $300-$400.

“I decided I could see… the trend of kind of what the public was expecting, although I don’t think the public is as demanding here,” Mlynarik said.

The entire purchase included docking stations for the cameras, data storage and other equipment, and amounted to approximately $9,700 Mlynarik said. The department will pay about $4,300 each year for continued use of a third-party server to store footage data.

Since Soldotna police officers are already used to working with audio records and video records from their vehicles, the training has focused on positioning the cameras and dealing with the footage, which is both audio and visual.

“It’s training actually how to use the camera, and then a big portion is how to download it into our system,” Mlynarik said. “There’s always a learning curve, but I think it’s going pretty good.”

The body cameras are “somewhat automated,” and Mlynarik said the ability to download them into the department’s system overnight using a docking station will cut down on the time officers have to spend on them.

Each camera is assigned to a specific officer and is programmed to recognize that officer’s account. Once the footage has been downloaded, officers can go back and add information, such as identification, into the system at a later time.

Sgt. Stace Escott had already been trained to use the new cameras, and said learning to use them isn’t much different than learning to use other devices.

“It’s just a tool for us,” he said. “We have many tools on our tool belt… and we’re already used to audio recording.”

The body cameras are a plus because, unlike the cameras in police vehicles, they can accompany officers into buildings and rooms for a more complete picture of an incident, Escott said.

“If someone’s being confrontational, that’s the goal I think and the push,” Escott said. “… It is going to capture some of those moments that were missing (before).”

One part of his training that took a little getting used to was actually attaching the camera to his person, he said. Placed too low, the faces in a video could be cut off. Placed too high, the entire bottom section of a shot could be lost, Escott said.

There will be slight differences between what the body cameras record and what can be seen by the human eye, Mlynarik said. The cameras have a wider view that could pick up something a person wouldn’t be able to see out of the corner of their eye, for example.

One area of possible concern when it comes to the cameras is the issue of privacy. Mlynarik said officers will not be able to record using the body cameras in places like bathrooms or locker rooms. They will have to be turned off in areas where “somebody would have an expectation of privacy,” Escott said.

“The first thing that we did before we started handing these out was create a policy,” Mlynarik said. “We understand that privacy is an issue.”

The Kenai Police Department has been trying out different models of body cameras for a few years, and got the majority of its cameras — about a dozen — this July, said Lt. David Ross.

The cameras are very similar to those used by the Soldotna Police Department, but come with different mounts for body placement, Ross said.

“Ours are more collar or glasses mounts,” he said. “We have had positive feedback as far as their use from officers, and we feel like they provide some transparency and promote professionalism.”

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Rhonda Baisden testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education on March 1 in Kenai. Baisden has been a vocal critic of school board COVID-19 mitigation policies implemented by the school district. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘You can’t expect people to live in bubbles forever’

Parents organize proms as tensions continue on school mitigation protocols.

Todd Duwe hands a food box to Brad Nyquist as Mark Larson looks on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna, Alaska. The church volunteers were distributing food from the United States’ Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, delivered by the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Weekly food bank distribution transitioning to monthly

Food bank will return to monthly boxes as CARES funding dries up.

Project Homeless Connect volunteers help Arlene Jasky, center, pick out hats and gloves for a friend during a Project Homeless Connect event at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Fund established to combat peninsula homelessneess

An anonymous donor reached out to the Kenai Peninsula Foundation wanting to formally establish a fund.

Alaska State Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink provides data for a COVID-19 briefing via Zoom on Thursday, April 15, 2021. The data show a decrease in COVID-19 infections as the percent of people vaccinated increases.
DHSS reports 20 new COVID deaths

Nineteen of the fatalities were reported after death certificate review

A sign is posted directing drivers to a vaccine clinic held at Beacon Occupational Health in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to offer walk-in vaccine clinic with state grant funds

The state has about $37.5 million available for the program and is requiring 10% of the funds from each grant to be used to address health equity.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File
Doctors at Bartlett Regional Hospital often call consultants and specialist for medical advice, but a supreme court case out of Minnesota could make that dynamic legally questionable.
Bill seeks to shield doctors from liability when consulting

‘Curbside consultations’ are protected under proposal.

The top three fish of the 2018 Winter King Salmon Tournament hang on a wall before a closing ceremony announcing the winners on March 24, 2018 on the Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament returns this Saturday

After one-year hiatus, winter king tournament is back with COVID safety restrictions

The entrance to Soldotna Public Library is seen on Thursday, March 25, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Libraries prepare for summer programming

Once COVID-19 becomes less of a concern, the Soldotna library will try to bring back more in-person events.

Most Read