CUMBERLAND — The Cumberland Police Department is working to furnish each of its officers with a body camera, and donations from the community recently helped put police one step closer to that goal.
For the past two years, Cumberland has been working to finalize its body camera protocols and test out which devices will best serve its officers’ needs, Chief Mike Crooke said.
Two officers started wearing body cameras regularly to gauge their value to investigations and community interactions, Crooke said.
Recently, community members footed the bill to purchase two upgraded cameras for the two officers who currently wear the devices, Lt. Christopher Etherton said.
Cumberland’s American Legion Post 220 and the owner of Sero’s restaurant in Cumberland chipped in a combined $1,800 to help pay for the upgrades.
The department is taking that charity as a sign of support for its cause as it moves forward with applying for a grant that will help purchase enough cameras to equip at least the full-time officers, he said. Department leaders hope to eventually equip 25 officers, including 15 full-time and 10 reserve personnel, with the cameras.
The department’s intention is to apply for a grant to cover that cost, as each camera carries a price tag of about $900, Etherton said.
The town is among a handful of local departments that utilize body cameras, including the New Palestine, Fortville and Wilkinson police departments.
Having officers wear body cameras already has been a valuable investment for the department, even with only a small fraction of personnel participating, Crooke said.
The cameras have helped with evidence collection and come in handy when officers were able to review footage before appearing in court to discuss a criminal case, Crooke said.
The new devices will sync with officers’ in-car cameras in each patrol car, giving a judge or jury two perspectives of crime scene if a criminal case is heard in court.
Should Cumberland be awarded the grant, the town council would have to match the donated contribution. Council president Joe Siefker said the town’s leaders are supportive of the effort, and they were excited to hear members of the community were encouraging the police department, as well.
The police department did not seek the two donations it received, making the contributions a pleasant surprise that officers plan to note in their grant application as evidence of the community’s backing for the endeavor, Etherton said. He hopes the sentiment will boost the department’s chances of receiving the funding, but he noted the generosity has already boosted morale among officers.
“It’s refreshing … to hear people are ready to support us,” Etherton said. “It makes the job worth doing.”