Most police cars are already equipped with cameras; many videos surface online of traffic stops gone wrong. Now, one local police department has upgraded those cameras in hopes of eliminating disputes.
“They’ve been fabulous for us,” said Logan Township Police Chief Tim Mercer.
The Blair County police department spent $90,000 to equip the 15 cars in its fleet with the newest upgrade in camera technology.
“It gives us a better way to gather evidence,” Mercer said. “Our cases are stronger for court. For example, on a DUI arrest, we now are able to capture that probable cause. The vehicle making traffic violations in front of us, we can download that and then show it in court.”
There are now two cameras in the front of the car: the HD one, and a new panoramic one. There is also a third camera that faces the backseat, keeping an eye on the prisoner.
“When police have an encounter with somebody and it eventually if it has to go physical where police has to put hands on somebody to cuff them or use some sort of use of force,” Mercer said. “I’ll be honest, it never looks good, and unfortunately what we find in society that’s when the cell phones come out and that capture from that point forward. Rarely is it captured the events that led up to that capture.”
The cameras are always recording, but they only start saving footage when an officer indicates an incident has occurred.
Once the lights are turned on or the record button is physically pressed, the footage will start rolling. It can even document anything that happened two minutes prior to the record button being pressed.
“It’s also really important for us to be transparent to the public that this not only helps protect the public but our officers,” Mercer added.
Once back at the police station, the data is sent to a receiver outside the building. That receiver transfers footage to a server inside the department. Each officer can watch his or her own footage, and Chief Mercer can monitor all of it right from his desk.
“There’s no more “He said, she said.” Now you can go back to the video and ascertain exactly what happened in that particular incident,” Mercer said.
The Logan Township Police Department is looking at another high-tech addition in the fall. Chief Mercer wants to buy body cameras for the patrol officers, six of them to start. It will cost around $1,500 to $1,800 for each camera, but Chief Mercer said the cost is worth it.