Decatur police issuing new body cameras
Posted: Friday, January 8, 2016 12:15 am | Updated: 6:40 am, Fri Jan 8, 2016.
The Decatur Police Department is in the final stages of issuing body camera recording devices to its officers.
The department invested about $125,000 in purchasing the cameras, upgrading the department’s computer server to store footage and providing space to house the devices. The 130 cameras cost about $52,000.
“The reason we chose these cameras is because they are designed so that what you see and hear on the recording is exactly what the officer sees and hears,” Decatur police spokesman Lt. John Crouch said. “It’s not enhanced at all.”
Crouch said the cameras, however, are limited by what the officers’ arms may block from view if they rise in front of the lenses.
The footage is also limited to when the officers switch on the recording device, he said.
“I feel they need to have ones that record all of the time,” community activist Doris Baker said. “That’s a waste of money if they don’t.”
Crouch said the cameras have a battery life of about four recording hours, but officers work eight-hour shifts.
“And it isn’t possible to store that much video footage every day,” Crouch said.
The department previously had only 12 body cameras officers could check out. The new ones were delivered about two weeks ago after being ordered in July. DPD has 138 sworn officers when it’s at full staff, but that includes the chief and other administrative officers. Seven officer positions are vacant.
Patrol and warrants officers have been issued new cameras. The next step is to equip the Anti-Crime Unit, a group of officers assigned to problem areas and hot spots around the city that need extra police attention.
Anti-Crime Unit Officer Nick Hill said he’s glad he will have a camera for proof of his actions.
“A lot of times we’ve had people call in and complain on police officers,” Hill said. “Now this will show what actually happened — whether it’s something an officer did or didn’t do or something a perpetrator did or didn’t do.”
Hill said the cameras not only will be helpful for showing officers’ interactions with the public, but also for showing their actions when no one is looking.
“If I’m doing a search of a vehicle and look down in the console and find cocaine, the camera will show that it was there when I got there,” he said. “It will stop anyone from claiming officers planted evidence or anything like that in court. It can give a timeline for how something happened.”
Baker said although she’s not happy about the officer discretion in turning on the cameras, she hopes they will be positively influenced by the potential for accountability in the recordings.
“There are lying, cheating policemen on the streets,” Baker said. “If they’ve got cameras on, it shows what they are doing and shows what the other person was doing. They’ll know if something goes on; it could be on tape.”
Ashley Remkus can be reached at 256-340-2443 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @aremkus1.