Monday, April 04, 2011

New Wearable Cameras for Police

(VIDEO of Wearable Cam)
OWASSO - By summer, new technology may allow the Owasso Police Department to better protect its officers and the public. The City Council recently OK'd the purchase of wearable videocameras that capture images wherever an officer goes. For about the past four years, officers have been using in-car videocameras in about a third of the department's 36-vehicle fleet. But Police Chief Dan Yancey finds the system constraining. "What we began to realize is that most of our complaints were still not captured by the video," he said. "Statistics show that about 90 percent of the activity occurs away from the car and out of the view of the cameras because they are stationary." The city will buy 35 of the personal videocameras from a Seattle, Wash.-based company called VIEVU. Costs will be about $31,500 for the cameras and roughly $13,500 for data storage. They are to be deployed by June or July. Officials say the portability of the new system will allow officers to videotape all contact with people, enhance their own safety, increase prosecution rates, improve public perception, and reduce officer complaints and civil liability. About one civil lawsuit arises from the Police Department's average of 1,700 arrests per year, Yancey said. On average, the department can buy six personal video cameras for the price of one in-car system, he said. According to a study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, when video evidence is available for complaints brought against officers, the officer is exonerated 93 percent of the time. The Tulsa Police Department has no portable video system, but it is spending $4.1 million for the purchase, installation and maintenance of videocameras in patrol and traffic vehicles. The installation of 575 cameras over the next two years is part of a 16-year-old class-action racial discrimination lawsuit that was settled last year between the city and black police officers. "There are a lot of times allegations are lodged against a police officer where there are no witnesses, and it would vindicate the officer," Tulsa Police Officer Jason Willingham said. "Or it would show where an officer did something wrong. "We're definitely in favor of being able to vindicate our officers, or if they are proven to have done something wrong, to handle that situation, as well." The personal cameras the Owasso department is using are roughly the size of a pager, fit on an officer's shirt and feature one-touch recording, Yancey said. Sporting durable, all-weather casing, the cameras can operate in low light and have a four-hour battery life. Yancey said he's unaware of any other Oklahoma agencies using the VIEVU system, which has been implemented by police departments in such cities as Seattle, Los Angeles, South Burlington, Vt., and Hanson, Texas. Owasso has been testing the camera in the field for about a year and a half, Yancey said. VIEVU footage from an arrest in October 2009 provides detailed, close-up images and quality sound. Officer Bobby Sordo, who handles the department's police dog, has logged hundreds of hours with the equipment and praises its effectiveness. "It serves as a real big protector for us," Sordo said. "Unfortunately, a lot of times people will always put words in our mouths. With the camera on us, it protects our integrity. If somebody says 'he said this or that,' we always have the camera to go back on." Sordo studies videotaped calls to better train the dog. He also has removed the camera from his chest to videotape crime scenes, and he can later reference that documentation for reports. "It is a lifesaver," Sordo said. "It's a good tool. It's good for the officers." The camera is activated when an officer slides a hood to expose the lens, he said. "I record whether it is necessary or not. That way, it shows what I did prior to my call and it shows after the call." Read more from this Tulsa World article at