Registered Agency Profile: Itasca Texas Fire Department

texas fire department patchRegistered Agency Spotlight:  Itasca Texas Fire Department 

Agency Donation Effort Contact: Chief Cameron Offutt

Link: Department Website

Number of Officers: 4 Fire Officers

Body Camera Goal: 4

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Registration Statement: The Itasca Volunteer Fire Department is requesting 4 body cameras for our Fire Officers. We are requesting this due to the increase in civil and criminal cases applied the the fire service in this day and age. I would like to provide our fire officers with cameras to protect themselves and well as the city. In the past we have been in situations where the body cameras would have prevented my firefighters from being targeted as “rude” or “disrespectful” by the patients and home owners as well as to be able to use the footage to conduct more effective training. The firefighters in this time are not the untouchable heroes they once were and I do not want my firefighters to fall victim to the lawyer happy environment we currently work in.
– Curtis Cameron Offutt, Fire Chief/ Emergency Management Coordinator, Itasca Vol. Fire Department

Why has your Agency decided to start a body camera program?
Chief Offutt: We want our fire officers to feel secure. We’ve been facing an increase of he said/she said situations and litigation cases being filed against first responders, we want our fire fighters to feel protected.

How do you believe a body camera program will benefit your officers, department and the community? 
Chief Offutt: Body Cameras will protect our officers, our city and citizens. If our officers go into a home and later the home owner says that money or property is missing we can use the body cameras to see if something was taken or not. Citizens can also feel more secure knowing that everything is being recorded.

Are there any situations where having body camera video evidence would have made a difference in court cases or complaints against your officers?
Chief Offutt: We had one complaint filed saying that one of our officers was acting immature and inappropriately. I was there and know it didn’t happen like the complaint stated, but a body camera would have proven it with video. There was another situation where we responded to a call and were surrounded by a crowd who tried to separate us from our apparatus. We had to call a deputy for help. If we had body cameras on and they knew we were recording their actions, they never would have done that.

Does your department have guidelines for a body camera policy? If so, what would the policy be? When would officers be required to record, etc.?
Chief Offutt: I’ve been looking at policies and making sure we’re covered under the HIPA laws. We would have our fire officers use them in all public contact situations to protect themselves. As Chief I and the City Administrator would be the only ones with access to download the videos so there are no leaks and the video doesn’t end up on YouTube. After the video is reviewed we would use some of it for training purposes.