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Washington Voices

Liberty Lake police test personal video cam

Thu., Jan. 12, 2012

The Liberty Lake Police Department will test a personal video camera over the next month and may eventually purchase cameras for each of its officers, police Chief Brian Asmus said.

The small cameras are attached to an officer’s shirt and record audio and video. It is a self-contained unit and the recordings are downloaded at the end of every shift. Recordings are date- and time-stamped and can’t be altered or deleted, Asmus said. Each recording is kept for 120 days and then deleted unless it is tagged for archiving, he said.

“I think it is good for accountability, officer safety and collection of evidence,” Asmus said.

The cameras don’t record continuously and are activated when an officer clicks it on at the beginning of each contact. Washington state law requires that anyone being recorded must be notified, so the officer testing the camera will announce that the camera is rolling, Asmus said. Having all contacts recorded may also result in better behavior from suspects, Asmus said.

While Asmus is almost certain he will get cameras for all of his officers, he said he is concerned about picture quality at night and wants to evaluate that after the test. Asmus said he also considered getting dashboard mounted cameras for each police car, but they’re more expensive and have a limited field of view. “They’re body worn, so they are wherever the officer is,” he said of the clip-on cameras.

While the camera will be useful in investigating citizen complaints about rudeness or improper behavior, Asmus said there haven’t been any incidents that prompted his decision to purchase the cameras.

“We don’t get a lot of complaints on the officers,” he said. “I think it’s going to be just like anything else on our duty belts. I think it’s eventually going to be an expectation. I just wanted to be ahead of the curve.”

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