Calls responded to by Licking Police Department officers can now be better documented on video, as the agency’s officers began using body-worn cameras on Jan. 1 of this year.
Chief Scott Lindsey said five of the devices were purchased at a cost of $299 apiece through a grant funded by the city’s insurance provider. Most of the LPD’s patrol cars are also outfitted with cameras, but Lindsey said those units don’t offer the same type coverage as the on-officer variety.
“We’ve had in-car videos for years, but once the officer gets out of the car, you might still have an audio recording but you can’t see anything other than what the car is pointed at and nothing that’s actually happening,” he said. “I really wanted to get a first-person view of what the officers see. It’s great for handling complaints, evidence and documenting everything they do.”
Lindsey said the on-body cameras have also proven to be more reliable than the car-mounted units.
“We have a lot of maintenance issues with the in-car units,” he said. “They’re really tough to keep going and at any one time we might have one or two cameras down.”
The “AXON Body” cameras used by the LPD are made by Taser International Inc. (of Scottsdale, Ariz.), a company well-known for its electric shock guns. Operational features include a 130-degree wide-angle lens and various mounting options (like clipping to a button on a shirt, a collar or even a belt) that make them usable in all types of weather.
“That can be a challenge, and I noticed that recently when I was out working the roads and had a coat on,” Lindsey said. “But with an alligator clip, you can clip them to a coat, or with a little clip some of the guys use it’s just like the way you would wear a pin in your shirt.”
The cameras are touted as doing well in low light, and Lindsey said they live up to that billing.
“I’ve reviewed some of our videos,” Lindsey said, “and even in those conditions you get a pretty good view of what’s going on.”
Lindsey said LPD policy mandates the cameras be in standby mode at the beginning of an officer’s shift and activated during all calls for service, field contacts and enforcement contacts. They record even in standby mode, but don’t save what’s recorded unless activated by twice pressing a circular button on the front.
Once activated, the camera begins the saved recording 30 seconds prior to the double tap of the button.
Taser claims that studies indicate use of body-worn cameras can reduce complaints by 80-percent or more. Lindsey, who has also been Licking’s city administrator since Jan. 1, 2013, said protection matters were the main factor in adding the devices to the LPD’s repertoire.
“There are a lot of officers at various agencies who have worked there a long time before cameras were even around who are kind of resistant to this new technology,” Lindsey said. “I wanted to assure our guys that the purpose was not for me as a supervisor to be looking over their shoulders and questioning their actions. It’s to protect both them and the public.
“It’s great when I get a complaint that I can go to the video and see that our guys did things the way they were supposed to, and take care of the complaint that easily.”
I really wanted to get a first-person view of what the officers see. It’s great for handling complaints, evidence and documenting everything they do.”