Letters for 02-26-2015

Video protects officers, public
Attention from around the world
was focused on Ferguson, Missouri
after police officer Darren Wilson shot
and killed unarmed teenager Michael
It is a widely held belief that weeks of
unrest may have been avoided if Wilson
was wearing a body camera.
The devices, used by hundreds of
law enforcement agencies across the
country, are used to record interaction
between patrol officers and the public.
Earlier this month, police officers
at Grambling State University Police
Department officers began to wear
multifunction body cameras. Strapped
around an officerís neck and clipped to
their shirt, they record audio, video and
can be used to take photos of evidence
at a crime scene.
Interim GSU Police Chief Howard
Caviness said students were alleging
complaints about his officers. With the
cameras, Caviness said, the department
can assess the situation further and
protect not only the officers, but also
GSU students.
The comments from Caviness are
echoed by Sterlington Police Chief
Barry Bonner, whose agency has been
using them for several years.
ďIf an officer knows heís being videotaped,
and the confrontation ensues
between him and a suspect chances are
real good that he is going to maintain
a very high professional level because
he knows heís being videotaped,Ē said
A recent study cited by the New York
Times bears out Bonnerís beliefs.,
An unnamed law enforcement agency
where only half of the 54 uniformed
patrol were wearing cameras at any
given time saw an 88 percent decline in
the number of complaints filed against
officers. The study also showed officers
used force nearly 60 percent less often.
These numbers show how important
body cameras are to the police officers
and the public they pledge to protect
and serve.
Grambling used a U.S. Department of
Education grant to fund the purchase.
And while the up front expense of purchasing
the hardware can be daunting,
the cost of computer storage space to
preserve the video can be astronomical.
A recently published story shows the
San Diego (Calif.) Police Department
paying $267,000 for 1,000 cameras but
another $3.6 million for storage contracts,
software licenses, maintenance,
warranties and related equipment over
a five-year period.
Both the Union Parish Sheriff ís Office
and Farmerville Police Department
have been using dash cameras for some
time. Officers with the FPD also wear
body cameras to record each interaction
with the public.
We applaud each agency for taking
extra initiatives to better protect and
serve their constituents.