Archive for Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tonganoxie police officers to get head-mounted video cameras

November 16, 2011

Tonganoxie motorists interacting with police for traffic violations or other actions might want to be on their best behavior because they will soon be much more likely to be on camera.

The Tonganoxie City Council approved the purchase Monday of five head-mounted Taser Axon video cameras and support system for cost not to exceed $14,000. The system will replace the department’s current dash-mounted cameras and support system purchased from a now bankrupt company.

Police Chief Jeff Brandau said the current system required officers to make videos and use unreliable servers without adequate memory that used proprietary software from the bankrupt company. The new system will allow the department to download videos to an off-site website, where they can easily be retrieved by officers and shared with prosecutors.

Brandau estimated the department spent $40,000 on the dash system for start up and another $3,000 to $4,000 annually on IT support. It also had to purchase new servers each time one ran out of memory. The department also has manpower costs when officers spent up to an hour making each video, he said.

Videos encourage officer professionalism and greatly reduce the liability of officers, the police department and the city, said Sgt. Billy Neff. The head-mounted cameras capture much more relevant footage from an officer’s perspective than dash cameras or chest-mounted cameras, which can have views obscured from aimed weapons.

Neff played a video — or at least the small portion not lost from a server problem — of a shooting he was involved in this year in Tonganoxie. The dash-mounted camera captured nothing of the scene save a bright light in darkness and some shouting. Neff contrasted that with videotape taken from a head-mounted unit of an officer shooting a man who pointed a gun at him.

Because of the video, the officer in that incident was cleared to return to active duty in 71 hours, Neff said. With no such compelling evidence, he waited three weeks to be reinstated, an absence that cost the department about $8,000 in staffing cost, Neff said.

Axon will provide camera and software updates free and provide maintenance at no charge for 18 months, Neff said. After that, there will be an annual maintenance fee of $1,200 per camera, he said.

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