North Cornwall Township police second in state to use on-officer cameras
Jan 23, 2013 (Lebanon Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
PLEASANT HILL -- The North Cornwall Township Police Department is the second police department in Pennsylvania to adopt a new on-officer camera system aimed at increasing accountability on both sides of the badge.
"It captures the truth. It captures the entire event," said Chief Todd Hirsch. "We want to make sure our cases are rock-solid and our officers on the street are protected as best as possible."
The new technology is called the AXON Flex and is created by Taser International.
Only 33 departments in the United States have these devices. Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is the only other police department in the state utilizing the units.
Hirsch notes this technology could be revolutionary in law enforcement once it takes
hold and more departments begin using it.
The camera captures video from the officer's perspective and is used to document events and capture data that will be preserved in a cloud-based, digital storage area using Evidence.com. Once captured, these recordings cannot be altered in any way and are protected with multiple layers of encryption, according to the company.
Hirsch said officers use the devices at their discretion. Officers wear the cameras on their uniforms and when they turn the camera on, the video and audio begin recording. However, the camera also captures video of the 30 seconds immediately preceding activation, without the audio. This cushion can capture the actual violation, such as a stop sign violation. Hirsch said
his officers tell the person that the incident is being recorded.
A continuing study conducted by University of Cambridge staff found that the cameras reduce the use of force by officers and meritless complaints from citizens, ultimately saving taxpayers money.
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the recording of a police incident exonerated an officer of the allegation or complaint 96 percent of the time.
"Most of the time, it corrects behavior right away because people are going to think twice about acting a certain way when they know it's being video- and audio-recorded," Hirsch said. "The other nice thing is, it's going to keep officers in line. Because certainly an officer will know that the information they are putting out there is going to be audio- and video-recorded as well. So the interactions are going to be that much more professional."
Hirsch said he came across the cameras when he was researching dashboard cameras to install in the police vehicles. Not only do the cameras capture more than the dashboard cameras, they are also less costly, he said.
"We're always looking for new technology; we're always trying to stay ahead of the curve here," said Hirsch.
Dash cameras typically cost between $6,000 and $7,000 to install in just one police vehicle.
North Cornwall Township supervisors included the purchase of the units in the 2013 budget at a cost of $14,000 for a three-year contract, Hirsch said. The department currently has two units, and two on order.
The cameras can also cut down on administrative work for officers so they can spend more time on patrol, Hirsch said. And it may enhance officers' ability to document and review statements and actions for both internal reporting requirements and for courtroom preparation and presentation.
North Cornwall Patrolman John Houser said he has used the cameras and think they will help when certain cases go to trial.
"There's cases that haven't yet gone to trial, but are in the works. I think that some of the actual video from the cases will come in handy," Houser said.
Houser said he had conducted a DUI stop a few weeks ago and was writing down notes when he had other calls after the incident that he had to respond to. Because he had the entire incident recorded, he could watch the video and take more accurate notes later.
"I could make sure I had everything accurately documented in my report," Houser said.
firstname.lastname@example.org; 717-272-5611, ext. 139
___ (c)2013 the Lebanon Daily News (Lebanon, Pa.) Visit the Lebanon Daily News
(Lebanon, Pa.) at www.ldnews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ InfoTech Spotlight's Homepage ]