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As part of national trend, Lincoln police to begin use of body cameras

This new body camera will soon be worn by all Lincoln Police Department officers when responding to calls for service or during traffic stops. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
May 06, 2015
LINCOLN—The town's police department will soon begin using officer body cameras. Chief Ted Smith provided insight about the specific cameras purchased, as well as the growing national trend for law enforcement use of video and image recording devices.

Recording an officer's interaction with the public is meant to ensure "good accountability and protection for the police officer and for citizens, too," Smith said.

"The biggest thing was deciding what camera company to go with," the chief added.

He learned about Wolfcom, based in California, during a conference in New Mexico. Wolfcom's 3rd EYE cameras received a great deal of praise from other departments.

A Wolfcom press release states Lincoln bought four cameras at the cost of $3,700.

"The purchase also included Wolfcom management software and radio cables, so the officers can utilize the radio microphone feature," Wolfcom noted.

Lincoln's police cruisers have used dashboard cameras for about 15 years. Depending on how well the body cameras do, Smith said the dash cameras could be phased out.

Field tests in Lincoln proved the utility and advantages of the body camera, Smith added.

"The video quality is as good or better than most of the other cameras we looked at," Smith said.

A microphone and camera in one package means officers in Lincoln will carry less equipment, while gaining other benefits the body camera offers. One advantage is the light nature of the new body camera. The 3rd EYE weighs in at only 2.2 ounces.

Like in other fields, body camera technology has been improving. Smith said Wolfcom's product will not just record what an officer is seeing, but will also allow the officer to see in the dark using built-in infrared capability.

The new cameras mean the department can replace digital cameras and voice recorders now in use. Software will download pictures and video from the new camera for electronic storage.

Several steps are needed prior to the department's planned use of the cameras. Smith said the necessary computer upgrades should be done this summer.

"We started drafting guidelines on the use of the cameras," Smith noted.

As part of that process, the department had conversations with the state and county attorneys offices.

Smith has great confidence in his officers. He said that cameras add to the department's overall credibility.

Cameras allow the department to maintain residents' trust through greater openness, the chief suggested.

"The officer knows he's instantly on to present the best light to the public," Smith said.

"We have nothing to hide," he concluded, "This will be another aspect of it."

Other departments in northern Grafton County are using body cameras. Smith said the desire to improve protection for officers and the public is a growing aspect of police work nationwide, especially in light of incidents where officer conduct has been questioned after a series of incidents involving the use of force.

Wolfcom began manufacturing body cameras in 2010. The company has worked with law enforcement around the world. For more information, go to: www.wolfcomusa.com.

National guidance on use of police body cameras was published in 2012. The document can be downloaded at: www.justnet.org/pdf/00-Body-Worn-Cameras-508.pdf.

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