Janesville46.5°

Rock County Sheriff’s Office squad cars get recording equipment

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GINA R. HEINE
May 27, 2011
— Nine of the Rock County Sheriff’s patrol vehicles now have a video and audio system to record traffic stops and other activities while deputies are on duty.

“We had nothing before,” Capt. Gary Groelle. “This is a brand new piece of technology for us.”


The video recording unit sits on the dash and runs the entire time the officer is on duty, he said. It records everything, but doesn’t save the file unless the deputy presses a button or the squad’s lights or siren are activated.


If an incident happens while a deputy is on the road but not “saving” the file, the system has a one-minute back up that would allow the deputy to save the previous minute of video.


Audio is captured through a microphone worn on the deputy’s shirt. The audio records when the system is activated to save and will pick up conversation in close proximity to the deputy.


Recorded information automatically downloads each night to a hard drive at the sheriff’s office when the deputy pulls into the parking lot, he said. That data likely will be kept for 60 days.


Information that will be needed for a case is burned to a CD, he said.


To Groelle’s knowledge, the sheriff’s office is only the third Rock County agency, behind Beloit and Beloit Township, to use the equipment.


The sheriff’s office said the new technology is designed to:


-- Protect deputies from false claims and the sheriff’s office from fraud


-- Reinforce professional conduct and deputy accountability


-- Corroborate stories and document sequence of events


-- Create indisputable and court admissible evidence


-- Simplify management of video and audio data


-- Assist as a training tool for new deputies in the field training program


The recording benefits drivers who may feel they were being treated unjustly, Groelle said, and the data will “help make our cases in court stronger and help the (district attorney’s) office and the overall aspect of the criminal justice system to be better.”


Deputies have only been using the equipment for a few weeks, so none of the evidence has been used in court, yet, he said.


“We’ll be anxious to see in about six months what’s transpired with the cameras and how much they’ve helped us, what kind of evidence we’ve used in court,” he said.


The sheriff’s office paid for the nearly $60,000 in equipment through various grant programs, with the Department of Transportation/Bureau of Traffic Safety grant program contributing the most. In the next two years, the office expects to buy six more cameras, which would equip each patrol vehicle with a system.



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