After using the same body-worn cameras for more than a decade, Yuba City Police are getting upgrades for body and in-car cameras. The move aims to improve officer safety and accountability.
(TNS) — The Yuba City, Calif., Police Department was recently given the go ahead by city officials to update its body-worn and in-car cameras for officers, a move meant to improve both officer safety and increase protection for civil liability by providing advanced technology that is more user-friendly and reliable.
The department has been utilizing body-worn and dash cameras since 2008. However, the current equipment, through Data911, is antiquated and poses several issues including problems with syncing the cameras and the required time it takes on a daily basis to manually tag, download and share videos with other agencies like the district attorney's office.
YCPD Lt. Jim Runyen said the current body cameras don't record in "passive mode," so when an officer turns the camera on, all that is recorded is what happens next. With the latest technology, cameras that are turned on will capture everything that happened two minutes prior, which can prove crucial for law enforcement as things often happen rapidly in police work.
"After researching, we determined that Axon (Enterprise Inc.) is the leading vendor in the United States for police worn body cameras, the best one to meet our needs and overcome some of the issues we've been having," Runyen said.
The department was given the green light to purchase the new equipment by City Council members in December. The five-year contract for new equipment is expected to cost a total of $552,618. The department has a technology replacement fund that will cover a portion of the costs, and the city has budgeted approximately $54,000 annually for the equipment. There is a cost difference of $153,874 that will need to be covered.
With the Axon technology, a bluetooth sensor on an officer's gun holster will trigger any body camera within 30 feet automatically when the firearm is taken out. The same thing happens when an officer switches on their emergency lights in the vehicle.
"Again, officers arriving at critical incidents, it's making up for the human error that does happen with officers just not getting their stuff turned on in time," Runyen said.
The contract will provide for unlimited cloud storage for digital evidence as well — currently, the department has to spend money on servers, upgrading them and maintaining them, as well as keeping track of a growing number of DVDs that are piling up in the evidence room, Runyen said. The new equipment will also provide instant downloading with auto-labeling that tags videos by incident, which would otherwise take man-hours to do.
The cameras are both important for transparency to the public and for officer safety reasons.
"If you go to a football game or baseball game and you look at how many cameras they use, and the liability associated with baseball as opposed to being a law enforcement officer, and we have one (body) camera, it's like trying to watch a baseball game through a straw," said YCPD Chief Rob Landon during last month's council meeting. "So, we want to have the best straw we can get out there and Axon is top of the line."
Runyen said the department plans to begin using the new body cameras within the next month. The new in-car cameras will be implemented sometime after that.
California Highway Patrol Yuba-Sutter utilizes in-car cameras as well, and some of their officers wear body cams.
The Wheatland Police Department doesn't currently utilize cameras, though Chief Damiean Sylvester said he plans to present something to council members within the next six months in hopes of obtaining body cameras in the next fiscal year. Implementing in-car cameras would be the next phase sometime after that.
Neither sheriff's office in the Yuba-Sutter area currently utilizes various forms of digital evidence technology.
"We don't have body cameras at this time and are not looking to get any in the near future due to cost," said Sutter County Undersheriff Scott Smallwood.
Yuba County Sheriff's Spokesperson Leslie Carbah said it isn't just the cameras themselves that are a primary expense, as the data systems and related information technology also contributes to it being cost prohibitive for the department.
Marysville Police Department currently does not utilize body cameras or in-car cameras. Lt. Adam Barber said the department is exploring and researching grant opportunities to fund digital evidence technology and the necessary software.
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