Friday, June 17, 2016

The Gladewater Police Department is the latest in East Texas to use body cameras



The Gladewater Police Department is the latest in East Texas to use body cameras for its officers in the wake of national police-involved shootings that spurred a movement toward using the devices.
A select few Longview police officers are testing camera brands as the department considers its options and discusses costs, spokeswoman Kristie Brian said.
In January, Brian indicated that the cost of outfitting each of the department's about 150 officers with a camera would be a "huge expense."
Other area departments that recently have implemented the use of body cameras are the White Oak Police Department and Harrison County Sheriff's Office.
After a 30-day trial in January, White Oak police purchased 14 body cameras to be used on patrol, police Chief Terry Roach said.
Harrison County Sheriff's Office plans to purchase eight body cameras with funds received from a Texas 911 Alliance grant, Lt. Jay Webb said.
He noted that, for the fiscal year that starts in October, the sheriff's office already budgeted for additional cameras and a computer server to store the video footage.
"As much as we would be using these, they could easily fill up a computer," Webb said, adding that the sheriff's office doesn't want to congest the county's computer system with videos. "We'll purchase our own storage device for the videos."
Webb said the cameras will benefit residents and officers.
"If you have a video, you can't alter a video," he said. "A video is going to tell you what you saw.
"There is a large percentage of complaints made against the officers, and upon viewing of the video that's been taken, it's exonerated the officers and the person filing the complaint has made a false report," he said. "It's gone the other way, too. (Thus), it protects the community and the officers."
Gladewater police purchased the cameras earlier this month thanks to donations by Gladewater residents.
"They will be utilized on every shift," Gladewater police Chief Robert Vine said Friday. "(Officers) will share. We weren't able to purchase enough for every officer, but every officer on duty will have one."
The department purchased seven cameras at a cost of $400 each, Vine said.
Two of the cameras will be used by school resource officers with the Gladewater and Union Grove ISDs, Vine said. The remaining five cameras will be shared by patrol officers on shift to be used during any formal contact with residents.
"While our patrol units are equipped with dash-mounted camera systems, these systems are limited to what occurs in front of the patrol vehicle," Vine said. "These body worn cameras go where our officers go and will capture what our officers see."
Gregg County Sheriff's Office patrol officers also use body cameras, said Lt. Kirk Haddix. He was unable Friday to provide a number of devices used by the sheriff's office.
Kilgore police have been using using the body cameras for the past few years to assist school resource officers, Kilgore police spokesman Roman Roberson said in January.
The Hallsville Police Department has considered purchasing body cameras, but is waiting until federal grant funds are available, Chief Paul Montoya said.
"Because we are a small agency, we are very blessed to not have a high crime rate," Montoya said. "Our interaction and our relationship with not only our citizens, but the community at large, is extremely good. So, we feel like it's not something we have to rush toward."
Marshall police purchased 37 body cameras in December and January after receiving a grant from the Texas 911 Alliance.
Since that time, the department has purchased three more cameras to be used by detectives, Marshall police Chief Jesus "Eddie" Campa said Friday.
"(With) the amount of criticism that law enforcement is getting right now, the camera offers protection not only for the officers, but for the protection of the citizens," Campa said. "This way, if there's any false accusation (that) is made against the officer, we can defend the officer. At the same time, if there's any unnecessary use of force or actions that the officer commits, we can take proper action."
— Staff writer Robin Y. Richardson contributed to this report.

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