Game, Fish & Parks Next Agency To Use Body Cameras

“Everybody we come into contact with generally has a weapon"

One state law enforcement agency will soon use new technology aiming to better protect and serve.

This comes after an increase in what officers call high-risk arrests.

“Most of our work is out in the fields, out in the open country, maybe it’s at a recreation area, at a lake, at a park, you name it,” says South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Law Enforcement Specialist Brandon Gust.

The conservation officers may patrol in much different places than typical police departments, hitting the trails of parks, instead of city streets.

But calls for service between the two types of law enforcement can be very similar.

“The number of arrests that we make that are drug related, maybe alcohol related stuff is far more than it was 10 years ago,” says officer Gust. “Everybody that we come into contact with generally has a weapon, has a knife, has a gun already on them given the nature of our work.”

The officers say they’re ready to add a new layer of protection, both for themselves and the public.

That’s why soon many Game, Fish & Parks officers will be armed with body cameras.

“Cameras provide a different element of being able to provide the story better than just an officer’s statements alone,” explains Officer Gust.

But instead of the more traditional cameras that are positioned on a person’s chest, the department will be using Axon Flex cameras, created by Taser International.

They film from the officer’s point of view.

“It’s a camera that typically rides on the side of the head somewhere, on glasses or attached to a hat,” says Officer Gust. “So many times an officer is looking in one direction, and you’re body is not so there’s things that don’t show up on film versus something that is up [on the head] where you’re always looking.”

After researching the devices for years, Game Fish & Parks just got an approval from the South Dakota Game & Fish Commission to bring them onto the force.

“Our hopes is that by this fall we’ll have the cameras purchased, we’ll have our officers trained and we’ll have those implemented,” says Officer Gust.

The cost of these cameras will be around a couple thousand dollars per officer, and nearly 100 officers will get the cameras throughout the state.

Funding for this technology comes from the Game, Fish & Parks budget.

The Axon Flex camera system is being used all across the country.

Several agencies in the state, including the Aberdeen Police Department, already use it.