All Taylor police officers to get body cams

Photo by Sue Suchyta Taylor Police Chief John Blair explains the department's purchase of body worn cameras, in-car cameras and conducted electrical weapons at a Dec. 17 city council study session.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Taylor Police Chief John Blair explains the department’s purchase of body worn cameras, in-car cameras and conducted electrical weapons at a Dec. 17 city council study session.

Additional in-car cameras, electrical weapons to be purchased

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR – The city will outfit all police officers with body cams and add more in-car fleet cameras after the City Council approved funding for the plan at its Dec. 18 meeting.

The plan, presented by Police Chief John Blair at the council study session the day before, calls for $766,700 over five years from the police operating lease account general fund, to purchase 70 body-worn cameras, 30 in-car fleet cameras and 40 conducted electrical weapons from Axon, a law enforcement weapons and technology company in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Electroshock weapons, known colloquially as a Taser, which Axon produces, fire dart-like electrodes to deliver electric current, which interupts muscle control, incapacitating the person targeted.

Blair outlined in a presentation the need for the BWCs and in-car cameras, given the 21st century trend toward increased law enforcement transparency. The presentation notes that the installation cost is offset by the decrease in litigation costs, which are mitigated by documentation of officer actions.

Blair recommended Axon for its advanced technology, cutting edge programs and software, which he said continues to advance.

“There are a lot of really nice features,” Blair said. “When you activate your Taser, it is going to automatically turn on your body camera. Weapon pulled from the holster, camera is going to automatically activate.”

Blair said officers in the area, within a department chosen distance, will also have their body cameras activated, and activating the police car flashing lights will turn on the in-car cameras.

He said there are other unique features to the system.

“There is a report writing thing that is invaluable to us,” Blair said. “I can pull up an ID from someone, hold it in front of my camera, and it will enter that ID information onto an incident report. As an officer, as I am asking questions of this person, you have accurate reporting.”

Other key points Blair outlined in the presentation notes are the significant training required, after which officer behavior, as observed in other police departments, is enhanced. Supervisors can monitor a situation in real time through the BWCs and in-car camera feed.

Blair also outlined the impact of BWCs, which include increased officer and resident awareness.Called an extrinsic effect, the cameras have been found to influence both police and the people encountered to behave in a socially acceptable manner.

Police departments using the equipment show significant reductions in overall complaints, and specifically in use of force complaints, Blair notes in the presentation. He also outlined that statistics show that officers wearing BWCs are more active, performing more arrests and issuing more citations, and complaints that do occur are resolved more quickly.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)