After the sirens, new cameras catch the actionSmile, Cottage Grove — you’re on camera, or could be soon, anyway.
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
Smile, Cottage Grove — you’re on camera, or could be soon, anyway.
In-squad cameras will be installed this spring in the Cottage Grove Police Department’s 15 marked vehicles, a “long-awaited” move that public safety director Craig Woolery says will bring the department in line with many others across the nation.
In-car cameras are “pretty much the norm,” Woolery said. “It’s standard, especially in the digital age, that people have video evidence. (At a time) when we’re trying to cut costs and cut overtime in court, it saves us false accusations.”
Police videos of dramatic chases and traffic stops have become commonplace on TV — so much so that Woolery said his department has dealt with disbelieving lawyers unconvinced the Cottage Grove Police Department didn’t have the prevalent technology.
That absence of cameras has left the department vulnerable to accusations of officer misconduct and lacking in valuable video evidence, officials say. The system will help the department avoid false accusations of officer impropriety and also provide additional evidence in some criminal prosecutions.
“Now we’ll have audio recordings and video recordings,” Woolery said, “from the time a suspect is dealt with on the street until they’re in the booking room.”
Installation of the $160,000 camera system — half of which is covered by the department’s forfeiture fund, which is proceeds from sales of seized property — should be complete by the second week of April, says Sgt. Mike Coffey, the official coordinating the effort.
The new cameras and new 800-megahertz radios are being installed concurrently to save a few hundred dollars per car in labor costs, Coffey said.
The cameras won’t require patrol officers to press record — they’ll be equipped with certain triggers that will automatically turn on the digital cameras that will be wired into the in-squad computer. Coffey said anytime an officer’s lights or siren are activated the in-squad camera will begin to record; certain speeds, too, will automatically trip the recording device located high on the vehicle’s windshield.
Officers can also manually turn on the camera, he said.
For the most part, though, “it’s really not for (officers) to decide to turn on or not to turn on,” Woolery said. “Part of that is just confidence — the public should have confidence that this is there for everyone’s benefit. It monitors the officer’s conduct, too.”
The cameras will also have the capability to back up 10 seconds once turned on, giving officers the ability to capture a violation or crime during normal patrol.
“If somebody blows a red light right in front of us, if we immediately hit our lights we’ll probably get that on camera,” Coffey said.
The digital files from each car will be downloaded via wireless Internet in the police department garage and stored on a central server for easy review.
Most in the department are excited about the cameras, Coffey said, recognizing the value the devices will have for officers policing Cottage Grove.
The cameras “can help ensure we’re providing the best quality of service to the people of Cottage Grove that we can,” he said.
The in-squad cameras are expected to be fully operational by the second week in April, Coffey said.