MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

February 1, 2014

Law enforcers weigh in on mobile cameras

Area law enforcement officers differ on the quality and capabilities of dash cameras and body cameras used in their daily activities.

The Muskogee Police Department has used dash cams in police cars for several years. Other area law enforcement agencies also use cameras to record their interaction with the public.

Checotah Police Chief Andy Blizzard said “the jury is still out” regarding the effectiveness of the body cameras that his department uses.

The department, which has 10 officers, has six body cams that can be attached to a shirt pocket. The department purchased the body cams for about $120 each after it received funds for them in the last budget, Blizzard said.

The cameras cannot download all information at the end of an officer’s shift, like the ones the Muskogee force is considering purchasing. The cameras record audio and video, but the recordings are downloaded and burned to a disc as needed for court proceedings or investigation, Blizzard said.

The chief added that the department is in the budgeting process now, and he is hoping to purchase cameras for the other officers with the department.

Blizzard said he doesn’t like the fact that the body cams have a lot of movement, and that he believes the department would benefit more from the stationary dash cams. But the costs prohibit the purchase.

“We can’t afford dash cams,” he said.

Body cams are “excellent for videoing interviews,” he said, but “there are so many things going on” during traffic stops that officers sometimes forget to turn on the cameras.

The Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office has been using dash cams in some cars for four or five years, and it is testing a few body cameras, Sheriff Charles Pearson said.

The body cams are being used on a small scale for now, but Pearson said they are “probably going to be the way to go in the future.”

A WiFi antenna at the sheriff’s office downloads all the information from the deputies’ dash cams automatically. That information is stored on a computer in a secured location in the sheriff’s office, he said.

The body cameras being tested by the sheriff’s office clip on to clothing. They must later be connected to a computer to transfer the information, Pearson said.

Body cameras are less expensive, require less maintenance and can be used everywhere.

“They would be available for just about any case you are on,” Pearson said. “But before we start putting them on everybody, we want to make sure that it’s a feasible option.”

There are pros and cons regarding dash cams and body cams, the sheriff said.

Car cams are stationary and can record only the activity that is in front of the vehicle. Officers and other personnel can record audio, but they lose the ability to record video if they enter a residence or business.

Body cams are always on, but their use adds another step for personnel to complete at the end of their shifts, Pearson said.

He believes that cameras could someday reduce paperwork requirements.

“These days, I feel comfortable always recording,” he said. “It’s going to catch our mistakes as well.”

Reach Anita Reding at (918) 684-2903 or areding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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