By MARTHA McCLAIN
Special to the PRESS
February 5, 2015
Laguna Vista police officers are now equipped with body cameras to monitor their actions and those of the people they serve.
The new technology comes through the efforts of new Police Chief Tony David, who secured a $10,172 grant from the Criminal Justice Division of the Governor’s Office, according to City Manager Rolando Vela.
“We just got the Axon Body Cameras last week,” Vela said.
The equipment is described as an ultra-durable on-officer camera designed for simplicity and performance. It features a 130-degree wide-angle lens, multiple on-body mounting options, a full shift buffer, and provides agencies with a single button solution to recording digital evidence.
The new addition to the department, the primary benefit of the body camera is that it will capture video of officer interactions, Vela said. “The footage can be used as evidence against suspects, and help monitor the behavior of officers,” he said.
In addition, a recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that most research on the use of body-worn cameras ‘document a reduction in citizen complaints against the police and exonerate officers 90 percent of the time, in some cases, similar reductions in use of force and assaults on officers,’ the city manager said.
In addition, the utilization of the body cameras will reduce civil liabilities to the Town of Laguna Vista, he added.
In all, the Town purchased eight body cameras, eight Surface Pro 3 tablets, along with docking stations for the body cameras.
“The Surface Pro 3 tablets will enable the officers to prepare their police reports, sync with the body cameras, take video footage of a crime scene, or simply take photos,” Vela said.
As for utilization of the equipment, “The Police Department has a departmental policy that mandates that officers not only wear body cameras but that they be on at all times,” he added.
While the crime rate is low in Laguna Vista, the question arises, are they really needed? “Very much so,” Vela said. “Not only to monitor the behavior of officers but to also capture their interaction with the public. When a citizen, for example, files a complaint against an officer, we can go back into the system and view the video of that officer with that citizen,” he said.
“The flip side, of course, is that this video interaction also serves as evidence that the Laguna Vista Police Department may need against an individual that violated the law and hold offenders accountable through the judicial system,” he added.
“In Laguna Vista, we are firmly committed to having the best police department in the Valley. Under Chief David’s leadership, we are beefing up patrol, increasing our interaction with citizens, and aggressively pursuing grant opportunities.
“The men and women of the Laguna Vista Police Department are committed to being proactive, accountable and professional by providing the best service in an ever-changing threatening environment, while being held accountable for police service provided to all citizens and visitors in the Town of Laguna Vista,” Vela said.
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