PPD body cameras a 'win-win situation'
Just before the one-year anniversary of the shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri the Plaquemine City Police Department made it mandatory for all police officers to wear body-worn cameras.
The new policy was implemented after months of research and inquiries with other agencies using the technology. The policy requires an officer to activate the body-worn camera at the initiation of any law enforcement or investigative encounter between a police officer and a member of the public.
PPD Chief Kenny Payne stated that the body-worn cameras enhance the Plaquemine Police Department in several different aspects to include: accurate documenting of police-public interaction, enhancement of the department’s ability to review incidents, augmentation of evidence collection for investigative and prosecution purposes as well as providing information for officer evaluation and training.
“Body cameras just make sense,” Payne said. “They are a great, practical and reliable tool for strengthening police-public relations.”
A push to mandate the wearing of body cameras stemmed from the nationwide issue between public and law enforcement relations. Payne also believes it improves the behavior of both the officers and citizens.
“These cameras take away all doubt,” Payne said. “The most important thing is the safety of the officer and the safety of the public. It’s not necessarily that they’re bad in Plaquemine, it’s that they’re bad all over.”
Plaquemine Police Department currently has 12 BWCs, one for each patrol officer assigned to the department. The PPD is in the process of purchasing more BWCs for detectives and other specialized departments.
According to Payne, standard procedure for officers is that they must acknowledge verbally their body camera to all civilians in any form of incident. Officers are required to turn on their cameras as soon as they receive a call or begin a traffic stop.
"People see you got a camera on their attitude changes," said Cpl. Austin Wintz in a WAFB report. "They'll go from being hostile with us and combative to, 'Oh they've got a camera'". Wintz has been with the PPD for three years and sees the cameras as an additional form of security.
At the end of every shift, officers upload all files from their cameras to a home server located inside the PPD
The cameras are lightweight and easy to operate. The BWCs have 32g of storage and easily remain operational for a 12-hour shift.
The body cameras are not only efficient but also cost effective, according to Payne. They will help to avoid expensive lawsuits and they cost $10,000, taken out of the PPD equipment budget.
“My police officers seem very optimistic about the new tool. We have taken a step forward in the right direction,” Payne said. “This is a win-win situation.”