Cameras for the copsCity of Washington police officers can record incidents
The computer screen sitting in front of Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman lit up and showed an incident involving a man locked in a cell in the Washington County Jail who became belligerent and began hitting his head on the ¾-inch thick safety glass until his forehead bled.
Officers and jail personnel tried repeatedly to get the suspect to calm down. Finally, after much resistance from the arrestee, officers had to Taser him and strap him in a safety chair to keep him from hurting himself. Every detail of the event was captured on a tiny camera called a “scorpion” worn by a City of Washington officer who had assisted at the jail.
“This is something that we were initially looking at for our drug recognition expert,” Goodman said, of the personal cameras all Washington officers now wear when on duty. “For the price they were, we thought it would be beneficial to equip each officer with one.”
The cameras, which are about the size of a pack of gum, are worn on officers’ uniforms to document incidents. Goodman said that the department has had the cameras for about eight months and believes they are working out great. He said the cameras are good for liability purposes, for court, and they give people the opportunity to see how both officers and suspects act in the field.
An on-board SD card records the images, which are later downloaded into a server. Goodman said that the unit also has internal batteries that can record for several hours. Officers turn the recording on and off. He said that the cameras are worn in plain view.
The department purchased the $100 cameras out of its budget earlier this year. Goodman said the personal video program is becoming more common among law enforcement. For years, he said, there have been dash cameras in squad cars and now it is becoming personal.
The only problem Goodman can see with the cameras is the lack of good video in low light conditions. He said officers at the University of Iowa wear cameras that can take better video in the dark, but the units are bigger and more expensive. He said this isn’t being discussed yet, but may come up in the future.
Goodman said that at first officers tend to be hesitant about adopting new technology. He said after realizing the benefits more officers come to appreciate the new technology.
“I think it gives people perspective of what that officer is dealing with in the field,” Goodman said.
He said not all videos are open to the public because some are used with cases or may contain confidential information. He recently showed a video of the jail incident to the Washington City Council.
“It I good evidence,” he said. “You have individuals who may have been drinking and refuse to take tests. Now when it goes to court, people can see what it really looked like out there at the time.”