COLUMBUS (AP) – The Columbus Police Department has ordered 50 video cameras for officers to begin wearing this fall.
Police Chief Tony Carleton told The Commercial Dispatch a $14,045 federal grant is paying for the cameras. The cameras should be available in October.
“With the new Axon cameras, that’s going to give us a total view of actually what’s happening and give us a more realistic view of what’s going on,” said Capt. Fred Shelton, who leads the patrol division.
Rebecca Curry, director of advocacy for the Mississippi ACLU, said cameras are needed to help prevent police abuse and, at the same time, protect law enforcement against unwarranted civilian complaints.
“The cameras just have clear potential to be a win-win,” she said. “It’s often just word against word.”
Shelton said the cameras will be mounted on officers’ sunglasses and will record interactions from the officers’ point-of-view. At the end of each shift, the footage will upload to a computer the department can access,
Shelton said the police department receives about 100 civilian complaints every year.
He said the cameras will increase the department’s ability to assess the validity of complaints with visual evidence, but the department already has documentation of all interactions with the public.
Since 2010, Shelton said the department policy has been to document all public interactions with an audio recorder. Anytime an officer is talking with a member of the public, they are ordered to be recording. Shift supervisors collect the recordings and conduct audits to ensure the technology is being used.
Shelton said the audio recordings have helped the department when it receives civilian complaints.
Shelton said he likes to use the technology as a teaching tool for his officers, to ensure they treat all citizens with courtesy and respect, which will ultimately reduce civilian complaints and increase trust between the public and the police.
“As a police officer, what it does is it helps me keep myself in check,” Shelton said. “For me, it’s like a pat on the shoulder saying, ‘Hey, make sure you’re doing the right thing and saying the right thing.”’