The nine body cameras former Cheraw Police Chief Jay Brooks ordered this spring have arrived, and three of them are already in use.
“We started with three Monday, and will have all nine in use by the end of the week,” said Police Chief Keith Thomas. “We’re checking everything out with these three first.”
Thomas explained that while the cameras simply attach to a pair of eyeglasses, or to the officer’s lapel, wearing them effectively is not quite that simple.
Each officer will wear the camera on the “strong hand” side of his or her body, said Thomas. That’s to help ensure the camera view coincides with the officer’s line of vision and vantage point. Officers who tend to push glasses or sunglasses up on their head when they enter a room are advised to wear the camera on their lapel.
Usually if someone is right-handed, his or her best line of vision will be on the right side, but that is not always the case. “We’re checking all those kinds of things out. We don’t need any video of the ceiling,” said Thomas.
As for operating the cameras, the only control the officer has is to turn it on or off. And according to Thomas, the cameras are to be on during any and every interaction with the public.
“Even if an officer is helping change a tire, the camera will be rolling,” he said.
Videos the camera captures are downloaded at the end of each officer’s shift and permanently stored in an electronic warehouse in Arizona. Officers may view their own camera images, but will not have access to view video recorded by another officer. Only the chief and two of his administrative officers will be able to review the video.
“But no one can tamper with the images in any way,” said Thomas. “There are several layers of encrypted security features that do not allow for anyone, anywhere, to mess with the video.”
Thomas said he is glad to have the cameras for several reasons. “We will now have a firsthand point of view,” said Thomas, rather than a written report of what transpired during a call. The cameras are also equipped with audio so that things happening outside the line of vision are recorded in sound.
The video will help clarify complaints about an officer’s actions.
“It will quickly verify or negate the complaint in a matter of minutes,” said Thomas.
In this world of technology where so many individual cellphone cameras are recording situations, this video from the officer’s point of view, Thomas said, “will not be taken from 100 yards away.”
The cameras will help bring “transparency” to the department, said Thomas, something he feels is extremely important.
“What better way to have transparency than to provide an actual video?” he said.
The cameras were purchased at sale price, nearly a third off the regular price of $1,500 each.
— Reach Staff Writer Karen Kissiah at 843-537-5261.