Thursday, Sep 18, 2014
Local News

Police say body cameras could help to resolve citizen complaints


Published:

LAKE PLACID — For Lake Placid Police Officer Mitch Cooper there’s little doubt that if the officer involved in the Ferguson, Mo., shooting incident wore a body camera the situation would have been resolved much more quickly.

When asked if he would want to be wearing a camera in a similar situation, Cooper said, “Absolutely.”

In reality, Cooper wears one every day. He uses it for traffic investigations, responding to domestic situations and when doing interviews, among other things.

“I don’t see where it would hurt any agency to have them,” he said.

Fortunately, Cooper hasn’t been in the situation where he was forced to shoot someone, as is what the officer in Ferguson, Mo., has said was the case.

And apparently many others besides Cooper believe that police wearing body cameras would prevent such controversies.

According to the USA Today website, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition regarding such cameras. The petition asks that the White House “look into requiring all state, county and local police to wear lapel cameras.”

The petition also states that the law “shall be made in an effort to not only detour police misconduct (i.e. brutality, profiling, abuse of power) but to ensure that all police are following procedure and to remove all question from normally questionable police encounters as well as help to hold all parties within a police investigation accountable for their actions.”

Lake Placid Police Department began having its officers using body cameras about four months ago. But the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and the Sebring Police Department have no immediate plans to follow.

Sebring Police Commander Steve Carr said that its possible that in light of the current discussion of body cameras, the topic will come up during a future strategic planning meeting. But even if the police department decides to go that route, “it comes down to who is going to pay for it,” he said.

The Police Department has cameras inside patrol cars and that has helped shield officers against false allegation of misconduct, he said.

In one case, a man arrested claimed that the police officer took money from him, but that couldn’t be the case, Carr said.

Mark Schrader, chief deputy of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, said he doesn’t oppose the idea of body cameras, but said that cost is an issue.

Schrader said the sheriff’s office will probably discuss body cameras in the not-too-distant future. In-car cameras have helped protect law enforcement from false complaints, he said.

So far, Cooper who has been a law enforcement officer for a year, said no complaints have been filed on him.

He said he believes such cameras are especially helpful in traffic stops and during volatile domestic call responses where sometimes even the victim may attack an officer. Cooper said he can also set it so that he could hold the camera around a corner and see the view on his cellphone, thereby increasing his safety.

“It’s just one more tool,” he said. You can never have too many of those things.”

jmeisel@highlandstoday.com

(863) 386-5834

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