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Police chief wants body cams

Devices will benefit officers and suspects

News Staff Writer

If Atmore City Council members approve the measure, Atmore Police Department patrol officers and investigators will in the relatively near future be outfitted with body cameras.
Police Chief Chuck Brooks told Mayor Jim Staff and council members during the panel’s March 11 pre-meeting workshop that he feels the body cameras will not only help his officers maintain their demeanor during an incident but will also cut down on the number of time-consuming complaints filed by suspects against city lawmen.
Brooks said the officer-worn cameras would be more conclusive than the in-car system currently in use.
“The reason I am looking toward body cameras for our officers and investigators is because a police officer doesn’t normally stay in his car, or the car might be pointed a different way than from where the incident is happening,” the police chief said. “The body cams are more accurate. They will help cut down the time it takes to investigate a complaint against an officer, and they’ll show just what happened during various incidents.”
Brooks said he has contacted two different companies, neither of which was named, that provide body cameras. One requires a higher speed than the city’s Internet service can handle; the other will communicate with the city’s Wi-Fi and has a longer battery life.
He told the mayor and city council that the ideal cameras would be ones that could be placed on a docking station by each officer when that officer completes a shift. As the battery is charged, all the data on it is uploaded to a cloud-based storage system.
The company that offers that feature would provide the cameras for free, Brooks said, but storage would cost $100,000 over the life of a five-year contract.
Asked if APD would implement a standard policy on use of the cameras and would provide training for all officers before the body cams were put into service, Brooks said yes to both queries.
“This is all brand new right now,” he said. “But, yes, we will have a policy in place to govern how they’re used, and every officer would be trained before they ever started using them.”
But, while he hopes to have the cameras and put them to use as soon as possible, Brooks said he didn’t expect anything to happen overnight.
“We’re just in the preliminary stages right now,” he said after the workshop. “There’s still a lot to do and a lot of different (cameras) to look at and things to consider. Hopefully we’ll be able to get them sometime soon. Then we’ll be able to find out almost immediately just what happened when someone files a complaint against one of our officers or tells a different story than the officer.”