More Than 90 Conservation Officers With GFP Now Equipped With Body Cameras

Conservation Officers and Park Rangers with South Dakota Game, Fish, & Parks have a new tool. More than 90 officers are now using body cameras statewide; the same cameras used by the LAPD.

South Dakota Game Fish & Parks Law Enforcement Training Supervisor Brandon Gust explained, “We’re towards the back portion of Lake Herman State Park.”

Gust says their officers do a lot more than just checking hunting and fishing licenses.

Gust said, “We often times are first responders on accidents. We’ve got guys that come across DUI’s. We’ve got guys that get involved with the calls for service all around the state.”

At times, they’re even called on to testify in court. Gust says that’s why it’s important to have evidence based support.

“Court systems have moved to expect video from a lot of different types of law enforcement situations as has the public with everybody having cameras, and things being recorded basically everywhere you go now,” said Gust.

Gust says they’ve experimented with in-car cameras, but their work often takes them away from their vehicles. After testing several different kinds, the agency decided to go with ‘point-of-view’ body cameras.

“If you mount it on a pair of sunglasses or a hat it’s going to look where the officer’s looking,” said Gust. “There’s some distinct benefits from having a cameras mounted on the shoulder up versus having it on the chest.”

The officers start recording when they come into contact with people. That footage can be viewed live or played back through an app on their phone. The only way it can be deleted is when the officer uploads the footage to the software on their computer. It’s stored in a cloud based system, and depending on how the video is categorized by the officer, the system then decides when it’s deleted.

“Some of the stuff depending on what it is, could be stored indefinitely,” Gust said.

The biggest learning curve for officers says Gust is remembering they’re there.

Gust said, “The new technology, getting used to outfitting yourself with it, and using it on a day-to-day basis is probably the biggest hurdle.”

Even if they do forget, the camera can capture up to 30 seconds before the officer starts records video.

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