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Special Report: Body cam provides police officers evidence and a - KOAM TV 7

Special Report: Body cam provides police officers evidence and accountability

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If every police officer's interaction with the public was video-recorded, would it change behavior on either sides of the law? Police in Miami, Oklahoma are about to find out as every officer on the force now receives a personal camera.

Modern technology means citizens have the capability to record police and violations at any given time, and police officers across the US are starting to think dash cams can't compete with the smart phone age. A year after an incident of alleged excessive force, police officers in Miami, Oklahoma are giving its officers cameras to wear on their person; to keep them and the community in check.

Part One: 
Seeing a dash cam from the police is nothing new, but now police in Miami monitor every officer interaction. According to Captain Thomas Anderson, 'Point Of View' cameras are becoming a valuable weapon for officers.

"You know, sometime people act different on Friday night when they are drinking, than they do on court on Monday," Anderson said.
 
The move comes after a turbulent year for the force. Last may a routine DUI stop at the Stables Casino parking lot turned controversial when Jerry Payne of Miami alleged officers from it's police department went too far.
 
"We want transparency, we want to be able to take care of problems, if there's problems," Anderson said.

The City of Miami says the case is still under investigation, with six officers still on administrative leave, although the City won't confirm why. The department is hoping new 'Point Of View' cameras will protect both officers and citizens.

"The public perception of that police department at this point is mistrust, and I think this is a very good tool to get that trust back," said David Newell, Education Coordinator for Criminal Justice at Missouri Southern State University. "I think it holds everyone involved responsible, and I think the truth comes out, not just the perception of everyone." 

Anderson agrees. 

"It's not uncommon for people to make complaints on officers to try and get out of trouble. or to try and say the officers try and say they did something they didn't, and this you have the evidence right there," said Anderson.
 
These cameras are about the size of tube of lipstick and can be worn on the officers hat or collar to be recorded every time they have contact with the public.

Officers tell us one of  the biggest problems they have with typical dash cams is that it only shows what is directly in front of them.  It doesn't show what is happening in a vehicle.
 
That is where this new point of view camera comes in.

"I can see exactly what's going on, say for instance someone had a gun in the car, I'm looking right at it," said Miami Police Officer Danny Pettit.
 
Officer Pettit says not only do the cameras offer instant replay on their smart phones via Bluetooth, but can act as indisputable evidence whenever they come under fire. Especially given recent circumstances.

"It's accountability, it's a liability for the City. it's definitely going to be a better thing for the City," Pettit said.

Each camera costs less than $600 and with 32 officers on Miami's force the capability to record both audio and video, officers say the video can even be used as video evidence in court, in hopes of cutting back on some of the he said, she said officers have to deal with.

- - -

Part Two:

Six Miami Police Officers remain on Administrative Leave as the City deals with complaints of "excessive force."

Now the Police Department is adding video cameras to officer uniforms to help protect its force and the public. But will the cameras help keeping the community in check?

Cameras in police cars have been around for a while but more departments are integrating cameras into officer uniforms-in the latest attempt to keep streets safe, and provide accountability.

According to the Miami Police Department these devices are the future of policing. Point Of View cameras record audio and video as officers patrol and interact with the public; and now every officer in Miami's Police Department wears one. 

"Honestly, I don't think it's noticed that much, unless you're really looking for it, you don't even know it's been there," said Miami Police Officer Danny Pettit.
  
Proponents of the technology says it improves police accountability, reduces complaints of police misconduct and saves cities hundred of thousands of dollars in court costs.

"It's a better feeling to know if anybody says anything, says you did something, that you are covered, because the camera has it," Pettit said.
 
According to Miami Psychiatrist David Mitchell, for most it will ensure them to do good-the same reason many of us slow down when we see a police car even if we aren't speeding.

"Most of us want to please authority," Mitchell said.
 
But Mitchell says for those in society who often rebel against the law…

"The camera idea may not be particularly helpful, in fact it might arouse some deliberately antisocial kinds of behavior," Mitchell said.

A study from 2004 shows that 94 percent of citizens surveyed supported the use of in-car cameras, but we wanted to know what Miami residents think about the Point Of Views.

"That's been needed a long time, accountability and reliability - they can put it out there and see what really did happen," said resident Robbi Rhodes.

"More safer and the traffic wise, and I don't know, might be able to protect people more," said resident Angela Bieberdorf.
  
As for the Miami Police Department, they say it all comes down to the better service provided to the public when officers are carrying one around.
"They'll get better accuracy on police reports, better representation in court, and the protection of the police department and the officers," said Miami Police Captain Thomas Anderson.

To learn more read Police Technology: An analysis of in car cameras and body worn cameras (PDF).

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