Officials in both cities have considered buying the new cameras, which are about the size of a tube of lipstick and can be clipped to an officer’s lapel, hat or sunglasses. The cameras would be used to capture traffic stops, criminal activity and routine police work.
In a presentation to the Jacksonville City Council earlier this fall, Jacksonville’s assistant police chief, Bill Wineman, said it’s increasingly important for officers to have video footage of their work. The recordings can be used in court to discredit claims of officer abuse or to affirm them.
“The public is going to have a camera on us,” Wineman said, referring to public safety officers. “We’ve already figured that out.”
Both departments already have standard dashboard cameras mounted inside their police cars. Those devices capture officers’ interactions with the public from a distance; the new cameras will allow them to capture the same work up close.
During a traffic stop, for instance, a wearable camera could capture what the officer sees as he walks up to the car and talks to the driver.
Eventually the smaller cameras could replace the dashboard cameras at some departments, officials said.
Both Piedmont and Jacksonville police are considering buying cameras made by Taser, the company known for manufacturing stun guns. Officials said the Taser cameras are good for police work because they can store many hours of video.
Footage from the Taser cameras would be stored on the Internet for 45 days. After that administrators would determine which video should be deleted and which retained, Jacksonville police Chief Tommy Thompson said.
The storage system will allow officers to catalog images and retrieve them as needed, officials said.
Older models of body-worn cameras were found to be less compatible for police work, in part, because they required officers to download footage from tiny storage cards onto computer hard drives. The process was cumbersome, timely and difficult to catalogue for review, they said.
Jacksonville’s Police Department asked the City Council to allocate funding for 20 of the cameras at a meeting earlier this fall. The council postponed a decision on the matter until after the start of the new year.
Each of the Tasrer-made devices costs $499, and the cost for storing the video on the Internet through evidence.com will be about $10 per month per device, officials said. The storage cost is subject to change and could increase if the department needs more space.
In Piedmont, police plan to pay for their devices with money already set aside for equipment purchases, according to Chief Steven Tidwell.
Wineman teaches training courses on how to use Tasers. To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the city attorney has since asked Wineman not to speak to the council regarding the matter.
The council also asked the department to identify other companies that offer wearable cameras with the same capabilities as Taser’s.
“I want to make sure we look at every option, partially to protect you and partially to protect the city, because I know you worked with them,” Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith said.
“We can’t find anything that does everything these do,” Thompson said.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.