Janesville police to expand use of body cameras

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

JANESVILLE—Janesville patrol officers soon will be recording more of their encounters with the public, thanks in part to a donation from Janesville Area CrimeStoppers.

Police have used body cameras for a couple years, but the old cameras don't work well in low light and have short battery lives. Video storage was complicated, and there weren't enough of them, Sgt. Brian Donohoue said.

For the first time, every patrol officer will be able to have one, although detectives and school-based officers won't have them just yet, Donohoue said.

CrimeStoppers donated $6,600, which together with $25,000 the department had set aside, will buy about 36 cameras along with downloading and storage equipment and software, Donohoue said.

The cameras will capture video for evidence or to be shown for training purposes, Donohoue said.

Donohoue said the cameras are ordered, and he hopes they'll be available for use in early 2014.

Officers use their own discretion in deciding when to activate the cameras, but reluctance to use them has largely evaporated, especially because the cameras can resolve disputes about what happened in an encounter, Donohoue said.

One feature of the new cameras: They are always recording--even when turned off--and save the most recent 30 seconds of video. When an officer activates it, the previous 30 seconds are saved, Donohoue said.

That could come in handy in case of an encounter that goes sour, Donohoue said.

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