The DeKalb County Police Department has a new crime-fighting tool.
It’s a 2-inch tall, 2 gigabyte, MUVI ultra-compact digital camcorder that officers can clip onto the shirt pocket of uniforms. With a click of a button, officers can now record video or sound or both wherever they are.
“It gives us a chance to look at exactly what’s going on at a traffic stop or domestic [violence call] or wherever they go,” said Capt. A.T. Mears, about the cameras, which have been in use by the department since May.
“What we like about it is it preserves evidence and statements,” Mears said. “If a woman says, ‘My husband hit me and that’s how I got this black eye,’ but six months later when she goes to court, when he’s brought her roses…and everything’s fine, she can’t recant her story and say, ‘I didn’t say that.’ We now have [her story]. We can download it and preserve it.”
Video from the devices has not been used as evidence in court yet, but the department has used them for training and internal investigations.
“One of the great things is if somebody comes in and makes a statement—‘The officer has done such and such’—we can go back and look at it,” Mears said.
The tool allows the department to “decipher a lot more quickly what happened on a traffic stop, if the officer was right in what he did and we can make that determination a lot faster by looking at the video,” Mears said.
The videos also provide the department with opportunities for training, Mears said.
“When we see a traffic stop, if we see something that’s wrong we’re able to correct it,” Mears said. “It’s not so much telling you how to do something, you get to see how to do it. Or if somebody does an outstanding job, we’re able to go back and show [it].”
Currently, use of the cameras is encouraged but not mandated, Mears said. There are policies in place about how the cameras are to be used and what is to be done with the videos.
“We’re in the infancy in using them,” said DeKalb County Police spokeswoman Mekka Parish. “We’re letting officers get comfortable with them.”
Officers determine on a case-by-case basis whether video they have taken needs to be downloaded and preserved, said DeKalb Police Sgt. A. Weaver. Officers have the capability to download videos to computers in their squad cars. The videos are then transferred wirelessly to police department servers. Video that is downloaded for evidence must be burned to a disk and placed in the department’s evidence room.
Mears said, “When people know they’re being recorded, they tend to…be a little more professional, a little more courteous.”
The cameras protect the public, Mears said. “It protects the officers and it gives us an opportunity to get better as a police department because we’re able to go back and correct anything that we see that’s wrong or improve on something that was done well. It’s actually going to help us later on as we start using this in court as evidence.
“It’s really going to move DeKalb to the forefront of policing,” he said. “This is a sign of DeKalb County being progressive—trying to get ahead of the game, not be reactive. We’re trying to take policing to the next level.”