Dillon Police Department introduces body cameras
Officers with the Dillon Police Department will start wearing body cameras next week, in order to keep digital records of incidents. The cameras will go into use as soon as the department finishes installing camera software on its computers.
“One of my goals is to get that done in my first year here,” said Dillon chief Mark Heminghous, who was appointed last April. “I just want to get ahead of that game. I could see it becoming federally mandated in the future.”
The cameras, which are about the size of an iPhone lens, will be attached to officers’ body armor vest pockets or shirts. Officers are required to either wear the camera so that it is clearly visible or notify citizens that they are being recorded.
“All of the officers here are happy to have them. It takes any worry of false allegations out of the equation,” Heminghous said. “It’s not just a he-said she-said kind of incident. Now, we have something we can look at.”
Officers are asked to turn on the cameras at their discretion for incidents where they come in contact with others, including traffic stops, motorist assistance and field interviews. They are also requested to turn on cameras for situations that become antagonistic, even if they were not being recorded before. Then, officers tag videos based on the nature of the incident, and they are stored for the future.
Heminghous added that the cameras can also be used to take photos of a crime scene, or vehicle registration in the case of traffic accidents. Instead of having to copy down all of the information by hand, officers can simply snap a photo of drivers licenses and vehicle registrations to speed up the process.
“We’re always finding shortcuts to get people on the way,” Heminghous said.
The cameras aren’t a perfect solution — they may not always capture the action, or an officer may not have time to switch it on in the heat of the moment — but they are a start.
A study conducted by Cambridge University in Rialto, California, showed that when officers wore body cameras, the use of force decreased by more than 50 percent. Officers in the study were only recorded using force when they were physically threatened, while officers without cameras in five cases used force without being physically threatened.
The Dillon Police Department bought 10 cameras from Digital Ally, for a total cost of $10,000. At this point, they are the first department in Summit County to implement body cameras.
Dillon officers will also wear new body armor vests that better distribute weight than unwieldy police belts. As officers carry 25 to 30 pounds of equipment on their belts, the vests are intended to help prevent future back problems that belts might cause.
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