In domestic violence cases, the camera never lies.
As many as 600 times a year, law enforcement officers in Hall County respond to domestic violence calls.
When there are scratches, bruises and other signs of abuse, a camera to document the incident is more important than any other tool officers carry. The images they capture one day may be shown to a jury.
“It’s a sharp reminder of the violence that occurred,” said Hall County Sheriff’s Deputy Bob Watterson, a member of the agency’s domestic violence unit.
Last week, Wal-Mart’s Gainesville and Oakwood stores donated six digital cameras and memory cards to the Hall County Solicitor-General’s office for distribution to area police and sheriff’s officers. The donations came after Oakwood Police Officer Todd Templeton told store managers of the need for new equipment.
“Anything law enforcement has asked for, they’ve never turned us away,” Templeton said.
“Basically we just want to support the community,” Wal-Mart manager Corey Reed said.
The new Kodak 9 megapixel cameras have three times the resolution of the old cameras, allowing for images of injuries to be enlarged more than before, Hall County Solicitor-General Stephanie Woodard said.
“Through photographs, officers record the severity of injuries sustained in domestic violence cases and preserve evidence that is necessary for the prosecution of cases,” Woodard said. “Additionally, pictures often keep children and other family members from having to testify in domestic violence cases and prevent them from being further traumatized. Officers can accurately record what all parties looked like at the time of the altercation and law enforcement responses. Prosecutors can then use the photographs to assess the severity of a domestic and decide how to pursue the case.”
Woodard said her office’s cameras “were dying left and right,” and with a tight budget, the staff had to make do with old 35 mm technology.
“We had actually taken a big step back,” she said.
Oakwood’s small police department supplies each of its patrol officers with cameras, but not all Hall County Sheriff’s deputies have their own cameras.
Watterson said in some cases, a domestic case could pull three deputies off the road: the initial responder, the domestic violence unit deputy and a crime scene technician, who has a camera to record the injuries.
“The Sheriff’s Office is very appreciative of the donation of cameras for use by our domestic violence officers,” Hall County Sheriff’s Col. Jeff Strickland said. “This donation will aid in the prosecution of domestic violence cases and make our officers more efficient and effective.”