CPD chief looks forward to possible additions of new body cameras

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Charleston Police Department may soon have enough body cameras for every officer on the force and then some.

Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin applied for a grant to purchase 90 body cameras Monday night during a city council meeting.

Charleston Police Chief James ‘Tyke’ Hunt told 580-WCHS that the 90 would be in addition to the 90 cameras approved by the council earlier this year.

“The 90 cameras will give us a 180 in total so we can equip each officer with their own camera and have a few spares in case something happens to one of them,” he said.

Hunt said the current cameras in the department have a self-contained battery system. An officer has to go to places that have charging stations and remove cameras in order to get more juice. Hunt said if an emergency happens while its being charged, the officer has to address the emergency and it loses the capability to record the incident.

The chief said the new body cameras will have longer battery lives and a quick detach battery.

“If a battery begins to die while an officer is in the middle of a situation that is calm enough for them to make a battery change, then they can do to their duty bag and swap the battery out and they are right back to recording all of the events,” Hunt said.

The additional equipment and training is part of Hunt’s plan of action letter submitted to Goodwin following the weeks of an officer-involved shooting in April. In his letter, Hunt requested 90 more body cameras.

Hunt said the majority of that plan of action has gone through with the outlier of an updated version of tasers. Hunt said the department does have “far more” tasers on the streets now than when the incident occurred on April 30, based on COVID restrictions being lifted and more officers now certified.

Hunt said if the department has enough body cameras to issue each officer, they’ll be required to wear them.

“The more evidence we can collect and the more information we can have surrounding a situation, the better off we all are going to be,” Hunt said of the importance of body cameras.

“It adds to transparency within the Charleston Police Department so it’s going to build better trust within the community. It also allows us to prosecute cases a little better because we are going to have an additional source of evidence to approve our cases.”

The Charleston Police Department (CPD) currently has 156 officers and is slotted for 173, Hunt said. He said the hiring groups come in waves and they’ve had more than 20 people leave the department in the last fiscal year. Five new officers are being hired in the coming weeks.

CPD is actively hold hiring tests and one is scheduled for Saturday where people can show up at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center and do both the written and physical tests.