Investigation: Tracking the use of body cameras in KY jails

Body cameras on corrections officers show public use of force

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A body cam video of a handcuffed inmate may have been the only reason why further assault charges were dropped.

WAVE 3 News obtained an exclusive copy of the video, which showed Terry Whitehead, an inmate, in handcuffs. He is then struck in the head by David Schwartz, a corrections officer at the time at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections.

After the incident, Schwartz wrote a citation for Whitehead stating the inmate had tried to fight him. There was no mention of the punch seen in the video. He tried to charge Whitehead with assault on an officer.

The jail’s director Mark Bolton said Schwartz tried to lie and hide what had actually happened. If it wasn’t for that body camera, no one would have seen for themselves what went down in that cell.

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Bolton is a supporter of his officers wearing body cameras.

"They are going to be used both ways," he said. "And I think 9 times out of 10 they are going to protect staff and every once in a while you are going to find a staff that made an unwise choice."

Those assault charges filed by Schwartz on Whitehead were dismissed once the video came to light. Schwartz and another officer in the cell at the time of the beating, Devan Edwards, were immediately fired.

LMDC was one of the first detention facilities in the country to use body cameras, Bolton said. Since then, other facilities have followed, capturing what the public rarely gets to see -- a glimpse of an incident for themselves.

Just this November, the Kenton County Jail in northern Kentucky experienced a use of force incident, according to our sister station WXIX.

A correction officer’s body camera captured the moment when an officer slammed an inmate to the ground, making a large gash on his forehead. That officer is now under investigation.

WAVE 3 News also found other examples of when body cameras in correction facilities have been put to use, as during a riot at a juvenile detention center in Cuyahoga County, OH.

LMDC started using body cameras in 2011 to help protect corrections officers when inmates go wild.

WAVE 3 News found one video back in 2013 of corrections officers getting ready to enter the cell of a man screaming and cursing. In the video blood can be seen smeared on the wall before the officers entered.

Once the inmate knew he was being recorded, things went a little differently.

“How you doing there on camera?” the inmate joked. “Can my momma get a copy of this?”

LMDC’s Assistant Director, Stephen Durham, said the jail has used fixed cameras to monitor activity. But he explained those cameras had limitations. That’s why Bolton initiated the use of body cameras.

“Director Bolton felt that the real-time record of events captured on body-worn cameras could provide the same benefits that law enforcement experienced with body-worn camera use (transparency, quick review, training tool and development of best practices),” Durham said.

LMDC expanded the use of body cameras in 2016 to where corrections officers on each floor had body cameras, he said. Now, every post has a body camera assigned to it.

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