In-Car Video Systems Purchased Through Grant Funds
It has become an all-to common scene on the evening news – a peace officer is involved in a confrontation with a suspect or individual and something happens – a shooting, beating or otherwise. Or, an officer is making a traffic stop when a driver attempts to run the officer down, or the patrol vehicle is struck by another vehicle.
We see such sensationalistic video time and time again, but we more often than not do not see video of a peace officer doing their job, serving the public and keeping the peace.
There are many reasons for placing video systems in law enforcement and public safety vehicles, but perhaps the most important reason is to ensure an accurate, impartial accounting of what happens at any given moment.
For many years, the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office has utilized in-car video cameras in patrol cars to record traffic stops. The older technology became a limiting factor, as deputies would have to remove tapes from recording units in cars and transfer the tapes to a central unit for storage.
The stresses of life in a vehicle began to tell on the systems, and earlier this year, the main tape playback system failed.
“We knew we needed to upgrade our cameras,”?admitted Palo Alto County Sheriff Lynn Schultes. “So, we applied for a gaming grant to replace the system and were very fortunate to be funded by PACGDC.”
With the grant award of approximately $47,000, the sheriff’s office purchased nine complete MobileVision units for patrol vehicles. Each unit has a camera mounted in the windshield, a transceiver unit and small viewscreen and digital recorder, which are all mounted in the patrol vehicle. Additionally, each officer carries a body microphone that ties into the car system. The video and audio from the camera, body microphone and a microphone inside the vehicle all tie into the system, which automatically transmits the video and audio back to a base unit at the Palo Alto County Communications Center.
The base unit consists of a Digital Evidence Viewer, which is comprised of a main computer that receives the data, stores it, can play it back for review on demand. The system also includes a Blu-Ray Robot, which stores video/audio and automatically burns DVD’s that can be played back and stored off site.
“This system provides us with so many more pieces of information,”?Schultes noted. “The in-car units are tied into the Global Positioning Systems in the patrol vehicles, so the system always knows where it is at, and those coordinates are encoded onto the videos along with time of day.”
Another feature of the system is that each officer carries a specific key they insert in the car unit, which tracks the officer, no matter what vehicle they might be driving that shift.
“The Emmetsburg Police Department purchased the same equipment for their vehicles and they have shared in some of the purchase of the base equipment,”?Schultes noted. “It’s great that our agencies can work together cooperatively on a project like this, because it works out to everyone’s benefit.”
While some people might view the system as an intrusion, it is more of an insurance policy.
“We’ve all seen the videos lately from across the nation,” Schultes said. “We’ve been fortunate to never have such a situation in our county, but these cameras will keep track of what happens so there will never be any doubt of what occurred.”