Janesville police like their body cameras, chief says

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Frank Schultz
Thursday, August 28, 2014

JANESVILLE—Janesville police have been using cameras mounted on their clothing or protective glasses for five years, and after some initial resistance, officers like them, Chief Dave Moore said.

Janesville police have 36 body cameras, costing about $36,000, Moore said. That's enough to equip all three shifts of patrol officers.

One of the biggest pluses is that the cameras have resolved complaints from residents quickly that otherwise would have involved lengthy internal investigations, Moore said.

Showing the complainant the video often resolves the issue, something that pleases officers, Moore said.

Department policy generally requires officers to video-record when issuing citations and during traffic stops, arrests, transportation and booking of suspects and anything else that might help the department.

All use-of-force incidents are required to be recorded and maintained as evidence. Other recordings kept in a general file must be saved for 120 days.

Moore said it's understood that in stressful situations an officer might forget to activate the camera.

If more than one officer is involved in “enforcement contacts,” all the officers should have their cameras on, the policy states.

The cameras are recording all the time, but the video isn't saved until the officer pushes a button. The recording is saved starting 30 seconds before the button is pushed.

Other advantages:

-- Videos are posted on social media to help the public understand what officers do. The recent rescue of a person threatening to jump off a downtown building showed the officer in a heroic light.

-- Videos are used for training, providing examples of what to do or what not to do.

-- Police have been pleasantly surprised that people tend to behave better when they know they are being recorded.

On the down side, people sometimes are reluctant to give police information if they think they are being recorded, Moore said.

Janesville police recently changed to Taser-brand cameras but used their old video storage equipment, which has had problems in downloading videos and capacity limits.

Moore is planning to switch to the cloud-based Taser storage service, which will cost $15,000 a year.

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