Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 25, 2017

Police ahead of curve in adopting body cameras

By NICOLE HESTER-WILLIAMS Ledger staff writer | Aug 15, 2016
Photo by: Nicole Hester-Williams Ledger Photo Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Jerry Marcellus holds a BODYCAM body camera.

In light of recent trends around the country where law enforcement officers use squad car and body cameras during traffic stops and other pertinent activities, local officials say Fairfield and Jefferson County are far ahead of the curve.

“We are extremely progressive,” said Fairfield Police Chief Dave Thomas about body and squad car cameras. “Where a lot of other law enforcement agencies don’t have a budget for them, we’ve had them for years now.”

The Fairfield Police Department has been using both dash and back of the car cage cameras for more than a decade. The department started using body cameras around four years ago.

“The actual reason we were so ahead of schedule is because our old car cameras weren‘t of the highest quality and they began to malfunction. We decided to go with a better company that stands behind their brands,” Thomas said.

The department purchased body cameras from Texas based firm Watch Guard Video as “stop-gap” cameras when the older car cameras started breaking.

“We got three body cams from Watch Guard, and we found out how good they were,” Thomas said.

Police captain Collin Smith agreed.

“We liked the body cameras,” he said. “They give us a better idea of what the officer is looking at, at the time.”

The department also has four squad car cameras from Watch Guard.

“We have cameras on each marked car. We have three patrols and a K-9,” Smith said. “No tax payer money has gone into this since the initial purchase. If something goes wrong with a camera, they send us a new one and we send the old one back in for them to fix and send out somewhere else.”

Smith said body cameras, which attach directly to the front of an officer’s unifom, typically produce clearer footage than dash cameras.

“They give you the best perspective of what the officer is dealing with,” Smith said.

Smith said three cars are out patrolling the city at a time, and officers are expected to use the body cameras.

Lt. Jerry Marcellus of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said body cameras have been very beneficial.

Marcellus said body cameras can go with deputies and capture what deputies see and hear, versus dash cameras, which only record the back of a stopped vehicle.

“We use BODYCAM [by Pro-Vision] body cameras,” Marcellus said, adding that the office has 10 body cameras which deputies and Sheriff Gregg Morton wear.

“They are all wearing them,” Marcellus said, commenting that footage from car and body cameras had been used in criminal cases in Jefferson County.

The sheriff’s office has used body cameras for a little more than a year.

Thomas said the cameras are used for more than just routine traffic stops. They are also used during when officers are speaking with victims, witnesses or suspects.

“We use them during interviews of any type,” Thomas said. “Humans really struggle with hearing or remembering things. A lot of times I’ll listen again to what the witness said, just to make sure I’ve got all of the information. We utilize it quite often,” Thomas said, commenting that the recordings have been used in court, but they have also been used to keep officers out of court when someone said an officer might have said or done something that he or she did not do.

“We love our cameras. We’ve been using them for 10 to 15 years,” he said. “We’ve been really lucky.”

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