When Iowa State Patrol (ISP) officers arrested a Black high school student on allegations that she assaulted a police officer, the lack of body worn cameras was conspicuous.
ISP officers made the arrest during an April 8 protest against “back the blue” legislation to protect qualified immunity at the state Capitol. A video by a protestor showed the student, Josie Mulvihill, push Trooper Dylan Hernandez’ arm. According to a bystander, Hernandez then arrested her and “threw her to the ground.”
Mulvihill is scheduled for a non-jury trial on Aug. 16 for a serious misdemeanor charge, which is punishable by up to one year in jail.
The controversial incident sparked a heated conversation, and raised the question over why ISP officers have yet to adopt body worn cameras despite 90% of the 200 law enforcement agencies across the state using them, according to an In Focus series survey.
ISP is also a very busy agency, stopping 150,000 motorists a year according to Times-Republican. They also provide security at the state Capitol, as in the Mulvihill case. The agency has also been involved in other shootings, such as the April 9 fatal shooting of Sgt. Jim Smith, and did not have body worn camera footage of the event.
Iowa law enforcement officers told In Focus that they like body cameras because citizens behave better if they know they are being recorded. Studies have shown that use-of-force incidents drop dramatically when cameras are worn. The footage also can enable criminal prosecution of cases and is even expected by many juries, according to prosecutors.
As to why the ISP does not use the cameras, Sgt. Alex Dinkla said: “When it comes to body-worn cameras, it’s not as simple as buying the actual BWCs. The BWCs themselves are somewhat affordable. (But) the infrastructure to support them is expensive and complicated.”
For the cameras to work, the ISP would have to outfit every car with a mobile router to download the video, which would equal about 267 cars.
Dinkla added, “Our troopers report to work from their residence, some live two hours from a district office and having a Wi-Fi option is the only alternative to be able to download these videos. Unfortunately, connectivity throughout the entire state in rural areas is still not 100 percent. Finally, there will be the increased storage of the added video as we already support our in-car video systems.”
Debbie McClung, the Iowa Department of Public Safety spokeswoman, provided reporters with budget requests for 2022 and 2023, wherein lawmakers asked the Iowa Legislature for a total $3.55 million to equip troopers with body cameras.
The budget request narrative read, “Continuing without the addition of a body worn camera is irresponsible when considering both the expectations of our society as well as the safety and security of our state troopers and those they serve.”
Following the request, the ISP received an estimate from Sierra Wireless (a Canadian company that supplies law enforcement agencies with the technology) for $2.55 million. The largest items are $336,500 for 400 body cameras, $547,000 for 400 vehicle routers, $187,000 for body camera software licensing and $183,000 for the vehicle antennae.
Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, chairman of the Iowa House Public Safety Committee, said he did not see the request but is supportive of law enforcement’s use of body cameras.
“I’m supportive of the funding to go toward body cameras,” he said. “It is a valuable tool for the officers, the community.”
According to the Times-Republican, Iowa could always mandate the use of body cameras by law. The report cited seven states – Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Carolina – that require agencies to equip officers with body worn cameras.