Smile: Park City police officers issued body cameras
Park City police officers are now wearing more than their uniform, badge and gun.
The Police Department recently issued body cameras to officers that allow them to video record situations if needed. The department purchased approximately 25 of the small cameras, about the size of a pager, that are worn on an officer’s shirt at about the middle of the chest. The officers wear the body cameras all the time when they are on duty, but they will only record when an officer starts and stops the camera.
The police say the cameras will be important tools as they gather evidence against a person. If criminal activity is recorded on the camera, the police say, the video will be a key to the case.
"It’s invaluable evidence on these cases," said Phil Kirk, a police captain who was involved in the decisions about the cameras. "It’s the old adage, a picture’s worth 1,000 words."
Kirk said the cameras enhance investigations and are a "very powerful tool."
"I think you’re going to see this be very valuable evidence in cases," Kirk said.
The cameras the police in Park City use record video and sound. They store approximately four hours of footage, Kirk said. The videos are downloaded to computers kept in police vehicles or the office computers.
The cameras cost approximately $850 each and the police needed to dedicate a server to store the videos. State and federal grants funded nearly all of the cost, the Police Department said.
Kirk said police leadership is encouraging officers to tell people if the cameras are in use when speaking to someone. There is a lime green color visible when the cameras are recording, the police said.
The Police Department crafted a policy outlining when the body cameras should be used, but Kirk said officers have also been given their own discretion. Some of the situations when the body cameras will be used include arrests, traffic stops, vehicle pursuits and vehicle searches.
The Police Department has used video cameras in patrol sport utility vehicles for more than 10 years. The cameras are mounted in most of the vehicles the officers use. The mounted vehicle cameras will continue to be used as they have been in the past, including to record a vehicle that is being pursued.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office started using body cameras earlier in the year. Sheriff Dave Edmunds said the office has approximately 10 of the devices. He said the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team uses them and they have been issued to some of the patrol deputies.
A Summit County Attorney’s Office prosecutor who works closely with the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office in building cases said the body cameras will be of assistance when he screens for charges. Matthew Bates said the cameras can be a "very strong tool" in a prosecution.
"We have video evidence of what happened," he said.
He said perhaps a quarter of criminal cases he screens could benefit from evidence taken from a body camera. Footage from a body camera could also be critical evidence if a complaint is lodged against an officer.
"It helps us in criminal cases. It helps us if a civil lawsuit arises," Bates said.
He said the cameras could be used while a police officer is interviewing a suspect at the scene of a crime or when talking to a witness. Bates said the footage could also be used to exonerate someone.
The cameras are manufactured by a firm called Vievu, which advertises itself online as "the largest body worn camera manufacturer for law enforcement." It says on the website more than 3,000 police agencies us the company’s cameras.
"Is liability hindering your work? Are you compromising your services due to concerns for potential lawsuits or complaints? VIEVU body worn video cameras let you do your best work without fear of future repercussions," the firm says on the website.
The Police Department has published a list of situations when body cameras may be used. It is a broad list that gives the officers wide latitude to use a body camera.
Some of the situations on the list include:
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Park City recently detailed the efforts to fill a range of vacant municipal posts in 2018 and 2019 as officials described the challenges City Hall has encountered in its hiring amid a hot economy.