GPD works to replace outdated patrol car video, audio with digital equipment

The new Digital-Ally video recorders are integrated into the patrol cars' rearview mirrors. Although some officer-citizen contact occurs outside the video frame, all officers assigned to the Uniform Patrol Division wear recorders on their uniforms that enable audio recordings to be captured remotely away from their vehicles.

The new Digital-Ally video recorders are integrated into the patrol cars’ rearview mirrors. Although some officer-citizen contact occurs outside the video frame, all officers assigned to the Uniform Patrol Division wear recorders on their uniforms that enable audio recordings to be captured remotely away from their vehicles.

The Griffin Police Department will soon be installing new digital cameras in five police cars, replacing the systems currently in use.

The city Board of Commissioners has unanimously approved the use of $15,125 – $14,139 in Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funds along with $986 which will be transferred from the Federal Asset Forfeiture cash account to the General Operating Fund – for the purchase of the systems, which will be obtained from Digital-Ally.

The new systems will replace some of the 20 units purchased in 2011 from Harris County for approximately $3,000.

“What they (Harris County) was getting rid of is what the Griffin Police Department was using,” said Lt. Darrell Dix, of the GPD’s Office of Professional Standards. “Out of those 20, we were able to get 17 functioning units because we pieced together parts we had with what we got from them, so we were able to maximize their use.”

Those Motorola cameras are outdated, no longer being manufactured or corporately supported.

“Right now, we have a mix of those Motorola cameras and cameras from a company called Digital-Ally. Where we are now is as we’re getting new cars, we are budgeting to have new cameras put in. We also get a JAG grant every year, so we’re gradually phasing out the Motorola cameras,” Dix said. “We then have parts that we can use on to repair the ones still in use until we can completely go to Digital-Ally.”

He said the new digital camera system is an upgrade that is less expensive while also being more compact and offering features that fit the PD’s needs.

Chief Frank Strickland favors having cameras in patrol cars, as they benefit both his officers and the community.

“As long as you (officers) do what’s right, it helps,” Strickland said.

Dix elaborated, saying the camera systems are a helpful tool when a resident files a complaint of wrongdoing against an officer.

“It cuts down on complaints on police officers, and enhances evidence from traffic stops and citizen encounters,” Dix said. “It’s our policy that on any citizen contact, like a call for service, getting out with suspicious people or a traffic stop – any citizen encounter in the course of their duty – that the officer have the audio and video going on their cameras. If there’s an allegation of wrongdoing, it’s very easy to go back and listen to the audio and view the video.”

He said that while citizen encounters may not always take place in view of the camera, per policy, the audio is recorded on the officer’s person, providing an accurate account of the contact.

“It ensures the integrity of our officers. It protects the officers and our citizens,” Dix said. “It pretty much paints the picture of what happened.”

As an example, Dix cited a recent call involving a motorist who complained of an officer’s alleged wrongdoing on a traffic stop. He said the citizen reported that when she attempted to ask the officer a question, he lost control.

“(The complainant) said he basically came unglued,” Dix said, adding that the complaint included an accusation that the officer began screaming at and berating the driver.

Dix said he then pulled the recording of the traffic stop and played the tape over the phone for the resident.

“The officer never raised his voice. Not even one time,” Dix said.

Despite the recorded account of the incident, Dix said complainant maintained their position, claiming that berating behavior can be defined by individual standards.

In circumstances such as this, the audio and video recordings are crucial in establishing professional and proper officer conduct.

In other instances, the cameras have served the desired intent of protecting the public.

“There have also been cases when a complaint has been made against an officer for something said or done and the video has shown that the officer did what they were accused of doing,” Dix said. “Corrective action has been taken against those officers.”

The new Digital-Ally systems also provide an additional layer of security in that the footage cannot be altered. Officers can review the video in their patrol cars, which enables them to provide the most accurate description possible for suspects that elude arrest, but there is no way to edit either the audio or video.

“All of the recordings are digital – we don’t deal with discs or tapes anymore – so you can’t go back in and edit it at all. It’s all or nothing. You would have to be a genius to do that. They’re very secure,” Dix said. “The officers can’t go back and edit the audio. They don’t have that capability in their patrol cars. It’s off, on and record – that’s it.”  Ω

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