By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – The Police Department’s new body-worn cameras, vehicle dash cameras and stun guns are improving not only officer and resident interactions, but protecting the city from expensive litigation.
Deputy Police Chief Rick Hopper said that not only do people react with better behavior when they see they are being recorded, but officers have more reason to be the best that they can be during public interactions.
Officers will have their own body cams, which either the officer can turn on, or which will engage when a patrol car’s lights are engaged, for example. At the end of each shift, the data is downloaded, and there is a permanent record of all interactions from not only the body cams but the police vehicle recorders as well.
In-car cams can be downloaded from access points, while road patrol cameras, such as those in use during traffic stops, can be seen in real time, with the footage downloaded later to storage.
The third new component, the more widespread use of stun guns, is an effective deterrent that forgoes deadly force, and the new tasers are automatic and eliminate the need for an officer to mentally estimate the distance to a person who will not comply with police officer commands. It allows officers to protect not only their own lives but those of the person they must control in an unpredictable, violent situation.
Hopper said the department still is in the process of getting each officer equipped with the cams. The need for storage capacity for the footage is also much greater than the original estimates. In addition, each car cam must be compatible with the officers’ body cams from a technology standpoint, he said.
“We want to show that our officers do good things,” Hopper said. “I don’t see a downside. I think the money is well spent.”
He said even the frivolous lawsuits that are ultimately dismissed cost cities a lot of money, which body cams can deter by providing a record of actual events.
“We are really hoping that it will resolve the issues of the costs of litigation,” Hopper said. “But we are also really happy with the fact that we have something to change everybody’s demeanor to have a more positive outcome.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)