Police body cameras, are they helpful? - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Police body cameras, are they helpful?

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Since the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, more and more police departments have invested in purchasing body cameras for their officers.

Even right here in the Tennessee Valley. But have they proven to be useful?

We spoke with three different law enforcement agencies in the Tennessee Valley. All who have had their body cameras between one and three years. 

The crucial part of the body cameras is the fact that it gives the same point of view as the officer, but everything is recorded.

"Sometimes, video can be worth a thousand words, especially for law enforcement. They clear up, I want to say almost 97 percent of complaints," said Sgt, Jonathan Ware.

Body cameras have pretty much become a crucial part of most police departments. There have been a number of officer-involved shootings in Huntsville, the most recent one happening at this house on Savoy Circle Sunday night.

This is a situation where Sgt. Jonathan Ware with HPD and Lt. Donny Shaw with the sheriff's office says the body cameras have become even more important.

"There have been questions that have come up, why did this happen, why did that happen, you know we have video that shows why things happen," said Ware.

"There's going to be more than just one point of view of the deputy or deputies involved.There's going to be outside point of view that's available," said Lt. Donny Shaw.

Lt. Proncey Robertson with the Decatur Police Department says the cameras are one of the best ways to build trust and transparency within the community.

"If anybody's got any questions about what happened with any sort of interaction between the police and the public, we're documenting that," said Robinson. 

And if something happens out of the view of the camera?

"Yes from time to time you're not going to get exactly everything you want to see on that camera, but it's always recording the audio," said Robinson.

Lt. Shaw says the cameras also serve another purpose. Evidence

"When it comes time for court, the deputy and the supervisor can provide it to the DA's office for use in court," said Shaw. 

And these cameras don't come at a cheap price.

"We spend $2,000,000 to outfit the officers. $2,000,000 is a lot of money," said Ware.

Even with a hefty price tag, Sgt. Ware says he's grateful his department has them.

"They provide the officers with a sense of security in today's society where people complain about different things," said Ware.

All departments also say that the body cameras have been a good training tool to use.

They're able to show the officers or deputies either what they did that was good or what they could improve on. 

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