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PARK CITY — Park City police are joining other departments across the country as they upgrade dash cameras in police vehicles to body cameras on police officers.
This month, about 20 of the more than 30 officers with the Park City Police Department will start wearing body cameras on their person during responses and traffic stops. The cameras are about the size of a pager and, when recording, show a lime green circle around the lens.
The new equipment comes at a time when many of the department’s dash cams are in need of replacement, said Park City police Capt. Phil Kirk, which in part, motivated the switch. Each body camera cost the department $865, whereas dash cams can cost up to $5,000 and offer only a limited view of a traffic stop. The department was able to secure the funds through a grant and it continues to look into other grant opportunities to fund more cameras.
“There are some distinct advantages of having a camera mounted on the officer’s person rather than just in their vehicle,” Kirk said. “It’s a lot more versatile.”
Not only will the cameras document traffic stops, emergency responses and other evidence gathering, but the department hopes the cameras will put both the officer and the public on their best behavior during interactions, keeping both parties safer and holding each accountable.
“It’s pretty clear when you move the lens cover that the camera is on,” Kirk said. “We hope officers most of the time will tell citizens that they’re being recorded. We’re hoping that that makes it safer for everyone involved, including the officer, and that people will be totally accountable for their actions because it’s going to be recorded — similar to people in the community recording police officers and making them more accountable. … If somebody is maybe thinking of being difficult or maybe going to fight or attack the officer, maybe they will have second thoughts about it.”
The police department of Rialto, Calif., found that body-mounted cameras on its officers resulted in an 88 percent decrease in complaints filed against officers and a 60 percent decrease in officers using force, according to a study conducted by PoliceFoundation.org.
The recordings can be also utilized in training, giving trainers and trainees the officer's view of a situation.
“We can review situations, debrief on them when we actually handled a real situation,” Kirk said. “(We can) learn from that, use it as a training video to decide what went right and what didn’t go so well. Being able to see exactly what the officer saw and reviewing those tapes will be very invaluable as a training device.”
Throughout the country, as departments have started using body cameras, some have expressed concern about privacy.
Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union recommended that, “deployed within an appropriate policy framework that includes strong privacy protections for officers and the public, (body cameras) should be mandated and funded." Kirk said the department had developed special policies for the use of body cameras.
Kirk said in addition to the cameras, the department is utilizing a server the department already had to store the cameras’ recording. The memory of each device will store up to four hours of video and audio.