By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Whether the device is called body worn video, body-worn camera, body camera or wearable camera, it is quickly becoming a vital part of policing across America.
The body cam worn by several officers in the United States has solved crimes, acquitted officers of wrongdoing, and in some cases indicted law enforcement officers who broke the law. The body cam has been the third set of eyes in many incidents that have gone viral in the past 5 years.
Now the Millington Police Department is seeking that transparency by the beginning of 2020. The MPD is current examining four different models of body-worn cameras to equip 28 officers in the near future.
“We’ve obtained a grant from the Department of Justice – a body camera grant,” Administrative Sgt. Bryan Childress said. “It’s a 50/50 match grant. So we have to pay half and they’ll pay half. We’re asking for 28 body cameras.
“We don’t know a name or model yet,” Childress acknowledged. “We’re going to put that out for a seal bid first until we find the one we like. We’re three of them and we’re waiting on the final one to come in and test that one. We usually test them for about a month to a month and a half. We like to see how it feels and exactly how the storage works on it, how the officers like it.”
Body cameras are wearable audio, video or photographic recording system used to record events in which police officers or other law enforcement officials are involved. Most devices are worn along the torso of the body on the officer’s uniform.
“We have to run it through an Attorney General’s office,” MPD Chief Mark Dunbar said. “That’s part of the grant that we have to approved by the Attorney General’s office on our policies and procedures on how we’re storing it for evidence.”
Dunbar and Childress said the devices will be divided among shifts under their supervision and the IT director.
“It tells the story for us,” Childress said of body cams. “You’ve always got the officer’s story and the witness’ statement. But now you’ve got it on camera and it tells everything. When it comes to a jury trial, they can actually see if it’s a DUI, how the person was acting. It protects the officer. An officer can be accused of doing a lot of things and the video actually helps him out.”
Childress noted in general officers are not a fan of body cam initially. “Everybody hates them. Then over time they love them because it saves them.”
Dunbar noted the device is also beneficial to citizens.
“It protects the officer and the citizens he or she is dealing with,” he said. “We’ve get stories told to us ‘This officer did this. That officer did that.’ It proves a lot of time, not every instants, the officer was doing what he or she was supposed to be doing. You’ve just got a disgruntle citizen.
“Another thing, if we’ve got an officer doing something wrong, it’s there,” he concluded. “And we know how to deal with it and take corrective action — its more accountability on both sides.”
The grant given to the program is $50,000. The MPD can match it but if cost goes over, the MPD will come out of pocket. The Board of Alderman voted several weeks ago to support and match in order to participate in the 5 year program.