In her 25-year career with the Gainesville Police Department, interim chief Carol Martin watched the evolution of police technology. Gone are the days of VHS car camera videos, with everything now becoming digitized and downloaded.
“When technology changes, law enforcement has to change,” Martin said.
Since last spring, 10 Digital Ally body cameras have been in use for Gainesville police, divided among the four shifts and the specialized services. In two weeks, another dozen are expected for arrival with police vehicles being replaced.
“It protects everyone. If someone has a complaint, we can pull it up and show both ways,” Martin said.
National outcry for police body cameras arose after the controversial deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York after confrontations with police. Both officers involved in the victims’ deaths were not indicted by grand juries.
Following the grand jury “no bills,” President Barack Obama has called for $263 million in spending for police equipment and training, including body cameras.
During the 30-day testing period, officers with body cameras captured footage of two different burglaries, evidence that then can easily be sent to the prosecutor, said Capt. Jay Parrish in Gainesville police’s support services bureau.
Coupled with the digital records system going live Tuesday, city police can now more readily provide case reports with addenda and multimedia to those in the courthouse.
“Instead of lots of paper and things like that, from one computer we can put that all together and send one file to the prosecutor,” Parrish said.
Hall County sheriff’s office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes said the sheriff and his team are “aggressively” researching body cameras for the nearly 90 deputies. Having sat down with several representatives for cameras, she said a purchase is expected sometime next month.
“The goal is to outfit every deputy and patrol supervisor with a body camera within the next four months,” Bailes wrote in an email.
Parrish said certain triggers during police work activate the car camera to turn on. If an officer flips on the lights and sirens or drives more than 80 miles per hour, the device begins recording.
“If anything triggers the car camera to come on, the body cam does as well, and vice versa,” Parrish said.
After the next shipment, another 30 or so cameras are needed to outfit all officers. The base price for the Digital Ally camera is $995.
The first 10 purchased, Parrish said, were paid for through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.
In terms of storage, felony arrest video must be maintained for five years, Martin said, but other files are set to erase after a certain time to save space.